The French and Dutch governments have pledged to create a joint working group to scrutinise the governance and ownership structure of Air France-KLM and their respective visions for the group's long-term strategy.
Following a meeting in Paris on 1 March, French finance minister Bruno Le Maire and his Dutch counterpart Wopke Hoekstra issued a joint statement in which they said they had discussed the "relationship of both governments" towards the airline group. The Dutch state recently acquired a 14% holding, bringing it up to parity with the stake owned by France.
The two politicians agreed to create a working group presided over by Martin Vial, director general of APE, the body which oversees the French state's shareholdings in private companies, and Christiaan Rebergen, treasurer-general of the Dutch ministry of finance.
Six areas of focus have been identified for the working group, including: investigation of the states' shareholdings in Air France-KLM and the capital structures of Air France and KLM; governance rules and "the respect by both governments of rules of good conduct"; and the composition of the board of directors.
The working group will also examine "defence of the interests" of the SkyTeam member's hubs at Paris Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam Schipol, and agreements entered into in October 2003 by Air France, KLM and the Dutch state. The states' visions for Air France-KLM's long-term strategy complete the list of items on the working group's agenda.
A "final outcome" from this work – a "fair and balanced one for all sides" – is promised by June.
Hoekstra and Le Maire affirmed that they "share the same priority [of] strengthening" Air France-KLM, and pledged to support improvement of its competitiveness. They agreed to launch a process with the stated objective of " transforming and reinforcing their understanding of the future of the company".
They reaffirmed their support for group chief executive Ben Smith and the senior management at both airlines.
On 27 February, the Dutch government disclosed that it had acquired a 14% stake in Air France-KLM. There had previously been media reports of tensions between the Dutch government and Smith over the future of KLM chief executive Pieter Elbers, whose contract with the flag carrier is nearing its end, though on 19 February the board of Air France-KLM recommended that the Dutch airline renew his term when it held its annual general meeting in April.