Brussels, 5 June 2012
State aid:Commission approves investment aid for infrastructure project at German airport Memmingen
The European Commission has found that investment aid totalling €7.75 million to finance an infrastructure project at Memmingen airport is in line with EU state aid rules. Memmingen airport is a small regional airport located in South Germany, with annual passenger traffic below one million. The investment to upgrade and enhance its infrastructure aims to accommodate the increasing demand of airlines and passengers. The state aid granted by the Free State of Bavaria will improve regional connectivity without unduly distorting competition in the internal market.
Commission Vice-President in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia said: "Local airports are important for the accessibility of a region and the development of local business. The Memmingen project exemplifies how infrastructure projects for such airports can be financed through both private and public funds in line with EU state aid rules."
Germany notified its plans to the Commission in March 2013. The Commission examined the project under its 2005 guidelines on state aid to the aviation sector.
The Commission's investigation showed that the infrastructure project contributes to an objective of common European interest by improving the connectivity of the region. The airport has developed faster than initially foreseen during the last six years. Moreover the project will allow the airport to meet the increasing demand from airlines and passengers in southern Germany.
Moreover, the German authorities demonstrated on the basis of an ex ante business plan that the public subsidies are necessary and proportional. In particular, the public funding is limited to bridging the funding gap and private investors contribute to an important extent (50% of the total investment costs) to the financing of the project.
In its assessment, the Commission took into account the important role of this regional airport for the accessibility of southern Germany, reaching a balance between fair conditions of competition in the aviation industry and transport needs.
The operator of Memmingen airport, Allgäu Airport GmbH & Co. KG, is owned by 70 different shareholders. Over 90% of the shares of the airport operator are owned by private companies located in proximity of the airport, mainly small and medium-sized companies.
While still predominantly publicly owned and managed, airports across the EU are currently witnessing growing involvement of private companies. New markets have emerged during the last decade through the partial privatisation of airports or through competition for the management of publicly owned airports. Smaller airports display the greatest proportion of public ownership and most often rely on public support. However, certain regions are still hampered by poor accessibility from the rest of the EU, and major hubs are facing increasing levels of congestion. Regional airports play an important role in ensuring the accessibility of Europe's regions and in the decongestion of hub airports.
Against this backdrop, the Commission's aim is to establish more equitable conditions of competition in the aviation sector while, at the same time, allowing regional authorities to meet accessibility and transport needs. The application of state aid rules to the aviation sector constitutes part of the Commission's efforts aimed at improving the competitiveness and growth potential of EU airports and airlines.
Today's decision is part of around 60 on-going cases in the aviation sector concerning the financing of airport infrastructure and operation as well as airport/airline arrangements.
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.36377 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.