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European Commission - Press release

State aid: Commission investigates potential state aid at La Rochelle airport in France

Brussels, 08 February 2012 - The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to assess whether financial arrangements between public authorities and the airport of La Rochelle (France), as well as rebates and marketing agreements concluded between this airport and some of the airlines using it, are in line with EU state aid rules. The opening of proceedings gives interested third parties an opportunity to submit comments on the measures under assessment; it does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

La Rochelle is a regional airport in Charente-Maritime (Poitou-Charentes region), with a total traffic of 191 599 passengers in 2010. The airport is operated and owned by the local Chamber of Commerce (CoC), and has been running deficits nearly every year since 2002.

The CoC received subsidies of approximately €3 million between 2002 and 2005 from various public bodies (ERDF, Poitou-Charentes region, Département de la Charente Maritime and Communauté d'agglomération de La Rochelle) to finance various infrastructure projects at La Rochelle airport. At this stage, the Commission has doubts whether the measures comply with EU guidelines on state aid in the aviation sector. In particular, the Commission will verify whether the subsidies were necessary to carry out the investment, whether the aid was proportionate to the objectives pursued and whether the infrastructure had satisfactory medium-term prospects for use.

Moreover, the CoC has benefited since 2002 from a range of support measures including cash advances of more than €8 million for its activity as operator of La Rochelle airport. The Commission considers at this stage that these support measures may constitute operating support to the airport operator in breach of EU state aid rules.

Finally, the Commission will examine whether agreements between the CoC and various airlines, such as marketing support contracts and discounts on airport charges for new routes, would have been contracted by a market economy investor. The Commission has concerns that such arrangements could give their beneficiaries an undue economic advantage that their competitors do not enjoy.

Background

The Commission is currently conducting several investigations in the air transport sector (see IP/12/44)).

The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.26494 in the State Aid Register on the DG Competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-News.

Contacts :

Antoine Colombani (+32 2 297 45 13)

Maria Madrid Pina (+32 2 295 45 30)


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