No deadline to conclude Air Malta talks with Alitalia – Zammit Lewis
The government has not set any specific deadline to conclude talks Air Malta started with Alitalia on the sale of 49% of the national carrier’s shares, but this does not mean that the negotiations are open-ended.
“In the next weeks, maybe in the next months,” a line has to be drawn one way or the other, Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis said. Interviewed by The Malta Independent online editor Stephen Calleja on INDEPTH, Dr Zammit Lewis said it is not the government’s intention to prolong the negotiations beyond what is necessary.
The government wants to find a strategic partner for the beleaguered airline through an agreement that goes beyond the injection of capital, but also looks at ways to improve the airline’s connectivity, the minister said.
Earlier this year, the government had signed a memorandum of understanding with Alitalia, but the talks with the Italian carrier are still ongoing. Recent reports in Italy said that Alitalia will pull out of the deal, but the government and Air Malta continue to say that the two sides are still negotiating the way forward.
The minister said that the intention is to continue to do the necessary changes internally so that the airline will be more competitive and these changes are necessary with or without a strategic partner.
Asked why the government chose Alitalia when this company already has financial difficulties, Dr Zammit Lewis said that, “Air Malta does not only need money but needs a stronger business network.”
Minister Zammit Lewis did not want to reveal if the government is in negotiations with other airlines because of commercial sensitivity. He said that, “my ultimate wish is that the airline will be the best airline locally and in Europe.”