Brussels, 20 February 2014
State aid: Commission approves investment aid for Marseille Provence airport and airport charges
The European Commission has decided that €12.3 million investment aid granted by different regional bodies to the Marseille Provence airport is in line with EU state aid rules, because it favoured the development of air traffic. The Commission has also found that discounts on airport charges payable by the airlines using the airport and a marketing contract with Ryanair involved no state aid, as they were expected to increase the operating profits of the airport. Therefore, in providing the discounts, the airport behaved as any market economy investor would.
Following complaints from Ryanair and Air France, the Commission opened an in-depth investigation into investment aid at the Marseille Provence airport and certain advantages granted to the airlines using the airport in July 2011 (see IP/11/874).
Today the Commission has cleared the past investment aid for the restructuring of the airport (€3.6 million), for the development of freight (€1.5 million) as well as for the construction of the low cost terminal mp2 (€7.2 million), because it was in line with the principles applied by the Commission at the time the aid was granted.
The investigation showed that the various discounts granted to airlines for the introduction of new routes, for night parking of airplanes as well as the differentiated charges between the traditional terminal mp1 and the low cost terminal mp2 were granted on conditions that a private operator would have accepted in similar circumstances.
The Commission assessed furthermore a marketing contract with Ryanair's subsidy AMS. The costs of this contract are part of the overall arrangement between the airport and Ryanair. The investigation revealed that before modifying the airport charges and concluding the contract with Ryanair, the airport made detailed financial forecasts in order to choose the most advantageous and profitable alternative. This ensured that the charges and other arrangements with airlines did not distort competition because they were established at market terms.
Public interventions in favour of market operators that carry out economic activities can be considered free of state aid within the meaning of EU rules when they are made on terms that a private operator would have accepted under market conditions (the market economy operator principle – MEOP).
Today, the Commission has adopted new state aid guidelines on aviation (see IP/14/172). The decision regarding Marseille Provence is fully in line with the principles set out in the new guidelines.
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.22932 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.