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NEWS Last modified on July 24, 2014

European Commission makes state aid rulings

The European Commission has referred Italy to the European Court of Justice for failing to recover state aid in a case involving Milan Malpensa Airport operator SEA and its ground handling unit.

In 2012, the commission found about €360 million of aid granted by state-owned SEA to its subsidiary SEA Handling did not meet EU rules and has ordered Italy to recoup the money.

In a statement, the commission explains, Italy had four months to implement the decision, but to date SEA Handling has not repaid any of the aid it received.

It adds: “The commission has taken the preliminary view that the aim and result of creating the new company was to avoid repaying the incompatible state aid granted to SEA Handling, of which Airport Handling ought to be considered the economic successor.”

Ryanair has also been ordered by the commission to pay back France about €10 million in illegal state aid received for operating at three small regional airports.

The commission says the French support, which was made up of contractual rebates and airport and marketing deals, gave Ryanair an “unfair advantage”.

The EU competition watchdog explains that Ryanair would have to pay back about €6.4 million related to aid received for operating at Nimes Airport, the subject of an Air France complaint.

A commission statement reads: “The commission found that this aid was mere operating aid granted without furthering any objective of common interest and which could not be declared compatible with the internal market.

“Ryanair/AMS therefore need to pay back the undue advantage of around €6.4 million that they have received, in order to reduce the distortion of competition created by the incompatible aid.”

pauPau Pyrenees Airport

Ryanair will also have to return €2.4 million in illegal aid connected to Pau Pyrenees Airport and about €868,000 related to Angouleme Airport.

Air France's low-cost subsidiary Transavia was also told to pay back €400,000 in illegal state aid related to marketing and airport service deals at Pau Pyrenees Airport.

The commission has also widened its investigation into financial deals at Austria's Klagenfurt Airport, saying these seemed to be “excessively favourable to Ryanair”.

But it cleared state aid granted to Germany's Dortmund, Leipzig/Halle and Niederrhein-Weeze airports, as explains they all comply with the rules.

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