Brussels, 17 March 2023
The European Commission has partially withdrawn a 2016 decision ordering Italy to recover illegal and incompatible aid granted to certain airlines operating at Sardinian airports. The decision follows a judgment by the Court of Justice partially annulling the 2016 Commission decision.
In July 2016, the Commission found that support granted by Italy to certain airlines operating at Sardinian airports was incompatible with EU State aid rules. Four airlines – easyJet, Volotea, Ryanair and Germanwings – appealed the Commission decision. In May 2020, the General Court upheld the Commission decision with regard to easyJet, Volotea and Germanwings. In November 2022, upon further appeal by easyJet and Volotea, the Court of Justice partially annulled the Commission decision. The Court of Justice found that the Commission had failed to show that Italy granted an undue advantage to easyJet and Volotea. Ryanair’s appeal against the Commission decision, which raised the same substantive grounds of appeal as easyJet and Volotea, is pending before the General Court.
In today’s decision, the Commission has partially withdrawn its 2016 decision insofar as it relates to easyJet and Volotea. Likewise, the Commission has decided to withdraw its decision as far as it concerns Ryanair. The Commission will now reassess the Italian public support granted to easyJet, Volotea and Ryanair under EU State aid rules, in view of the guidance provided by the Court of Justice. In particular, the Commission will assess whether the aid granted to those airlines does not go beyond what a private operator would be prepared to offer under the same circumstances (the so-called ‘market economic operator principle’), in accordance with the methodology established by the Court of Justice in its judgment.
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.33983 in the State aid register on the Commission’s competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.
Source – EU Commission