The commission has concluded Zweibrücken Airport and Charleroi Airport received state aid, which was “incompatible with EU rules and must now be recovered”.
In addition, it says it has opened an in-depth investigation concerning state financial support granted to certain airlines flying from Brussels Airport in Zaventem.
The decisions are based on the commission's new guidelines on state aid to airports and airlines adopted in February 2014 as part of its State Aid Modernisation (SAM) strategy.
Commission vice president, Joaquín Almunia, in charge of competition policy, explains: "EU state aid rules allow public authorities to grant support to airports where it is justified, in particular where it improves the accessibility of a region and provides a significant contribution to its economic development.
“However, duplicating unprofitable airport infrastructure or unduly favouring certain airlines wastes taxpayers' money and distorts competition in the Single Market."
The commission has adopted decisions on two types of measures: financial support granted to airports; and financial conditions offered by airport managers to certain airlines for their operations at the airports in question.
Commissioners have fully approved the state aid granted to the airports of Frankfurt-Hahn and Saarbrücken in Germany, Alghero in Italy and Västerås in Sweden.
In the case of Zweibrücken Airport in Germany, it found both investment aid and operating aid paid to the airport manager since 2000 are incompatible with the Single Market.
As for Charleroi Airport in Belgium, the commission acknowledged the aid granted to the gateway has allowed it to develop considerably since 2002, which has contributed significantly to the economic development of the Walloon Region.
In view of positive and negative effects, the commission considered, on balance, part of this aid can be authorised, but Charleroi has to pay back the remainder, around €6 million.
The commission also found certain agreements concluded by managers of Zweibrücken and Alghero airports procured the beneficiary airlines an “undue economic advantage, which they need to pay back”.
Finally, the commission has opened an in-depth investigation into a Belgian scheme, granting around €19 million of public money per year over the period 2014-2016 to the manager of Brussels Airport who then redistributes those amounts to certain airlines flying from the airport, of which it says most of the money was to be allocated to Brussels Airlines.