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Brussels, 24 June 2010

Airport services: infringement proceedings against Malta

The European Commission has decided to ask the Maltese authorities to correctly apply the Directive on the opening-up of the groundhandling market. The European rules on the refuelling of aircraft are not being complied with at the airport of Luqa-Malta. The request to Malta takes the form of a reasoned opinion, the second stage in the EU's infringement proceedings (Article 258 TFEU). If there is no satisfactory reply within two months, the Commission may refer the matter to the European Court of Justice.

The European rules

Under Council Directive 96/67/EC adopted in 1996, the European Union has opened up the groundhandling services market at airports to competition, which includes the checking-in of passengers, baggage handling and the refuelling of aircraft.

However, the Directive allows Member States to limit the opening-up of the market to a maximum number of suppliers for four categories of groundhandling. These categories are: ramp handling (marshalling aircraft, loading and unloading food and beverages, etc.), baggage handling, freight and mail handling and fuel and oil handling. This limitation is however subject to compliance with certain criteria, particularly in terms of selecting suppliers (need for a transparent and non-discriminatory European call for tender).

In addition, suppliers who carry out other activities in addition to groundhandling services are required to ensure separation of accounts.

The problem in Malta

The Commission takes the view that the situation at Luqa-Malta airport with regard to the selection of suppliers of fuel and oil handling services is not in conformity with the European Directive. The rules transposing the Directive in Malta provide for a limitation on the opening-up of the market to two suppliers as well as the launching of a European call for tender for their selection. Moreover, the conditions under which the two suppliers were selected are not fully in conformity with the Directive.

In addition, the Maltese authorities did not organise an independent verification of the separation of accounts even though one of the two suppliers of fuel handling services is also the manager of the storage and fuel supply facilities.

The practical effects of the incorrect application of the Directive

The first consequence of the incorrect application of the Directive is the lack of effective competition for the supply of fuel at the airport of Luqa-Malta, which results in possible additional costs to airline companies which may then be passed on to passengers.

The latest information on infringement proceedings for all Member States can be found at:

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