Today the Commission approved, for the first time, three state aid schemes for airports and airlines on the basis of the new Guidelines on State aid to airports and airlines adopted in February 2014. The Commission considers, in particular, that these schemes for the French aviation sector promote regional connectivity without causing undue distortion of competition in the Single Market. The schemes will enable France to grant individual aid that complies with the criteria laid down in the Guidelines without further intervention by the Commission.
Ms Margrethe Vestager, Commissioner responsible for competition policy, said: "These Commission decisions illustrate the effectiveness of the new rules on state aid to airports and airlines. The three aid schemes approved today will enable more sustainable support to the European aviation sector, thereby improving the mobility of citizens."
The three aid schemes notified by France concern the three main types of aid governed by the new Guidelines, namely investment aid and operating aid to airports and start-up aid for new routes. The Commission takes the view that the schemes, which have been approved for a period of 10 years, and the monitoring arrangements put in place by the French authorities will ensure that France complies fully with the new Guidelines.
The schemes will provide a clear and effective legal and economic framework for aviation operators, while promoting the coherent use of public funds for the benefit of the various stakeholders. The aid will therefore help to improve regional connectivity, combat air traffic congestion and facilitate regional development.
The new Guidelines on state aid in the aviation sector (see also MEMO and Policy brief) offer Member States a degree of flexibility in granting investment aid which they consider necessary for regional airports. In addition, operating aid may be granted for a transitional period of 10 years to airports with fewer than 3 million passengers. Airports with up to 700 000 passengers may benefit from operating aid regardless of any transitional period.
The objective of the Guidelines is to maintain the accessibility of regions and promote regional economic development, while avoiding duplication of unprofitable airports, waste of public resources and undue distortion of competition.
The new Guidelines also ensure greater legal certainty concerning the financial relationships between airports and airlines. They clearly stipulate that, where an airport concludes an agreement with an airline, it must ensure that the likely costs generated by the agreement are covered by expected revenues. If that is not the case, the airline enjoys an unjustified advantage which, in principle, constitutes state aid incompatible with the internal market.
The Guidelines were adopted within the context of the modernisation of the EU state aid policy.