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Brussels, 26 April 2006

European Commission takes Greece to Court for aid to Olympic

The European Commission decided today to refer Greece to the European Court of Justice for failure to comply with its state aid decision of 14 September 2005. This decision required Greece to quantify and recover all the unlawfully granted aid to Olympic Airways and Olympic Airlines since December 2002. It also asked Greece to immediately suspend all further payments of aid to Olympic Airways and Olympic Airlines, and gave Greece two months to inform the Commission of the steps taken to comply.

In its decision of September 2005, the Commission found that Greece had granted illegal and incompatible State aid through a number of measures, as follows:

  • €40 million from the Greek State and Olympic Airways to cover part of the costs to Olympic Airlines of leasing aircraft;
  • an unjustified payment of some €90 million from the Greek State to Olympic Airways when Olympic Airlines was set up and transferred to the State, achieved by overvaluing the assets transferred to the State;
  • the Greek State’s toleration of Olympic Airways’ failure to pay more than €350 million in tax and social security liabilities due between December 2002 and December 2004;
  • the assumption by the Greek State of a number of Olympic Airways’ financial obligations, e.g. in connection with aircraft leasing contracts and the repayment of a bank loan, amounting to up to €60 million.

Greece was required to recover the aid without delay, the exact amount of which had to be defined during the execution of the September 2005 decision. It was also required to immediately suspend all further payments of illegal aid to Olympic Airways and Olympic Airlines.

Nevertheless, at this stage, the exact amount to be recovered has not been determined yet. No recovery has taken place, and Greece has not demonstrated that it is has suspended all payments of new illegal aid.

In May 2005, the European Court of Justice had already ruled that Greece had not implemented the decision taken by the Commission in December 2002, which required Greece to recover €161 million of illegal aid. The Commission recently decided (IP/06/425) to send a reasoned opinion to Greece for failure to comply with this Court ruling and its 2002 decision. Depending on the answer of the Greek authorities, the Commission may also refer Greece to the Court on this ground to request penalty payments.

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