EU partially revokes decision on illegitimate aid to airlines in Sardinia

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(Finance) – The European Commission has partially reversed a 2016 decision which enjoined Italy to recover the illegal and incompatible aid granted to some airlines operating in Sardinian airports. The decision follows a ruling by the Court of Justice partially annulling the 2016 Commission decision.

In July 2016, the Commission found that Italy’s support to some airlines operating at Sardinian airports was incompatible with EU state aid rules. Four airlineseasyJetVolotea, Ryanair and Germanwings – appealed the Commission’s decision. In May 2020, the Tribunal upheld the Commission’s decision with regard to easyJet, Volotea and Germanwings. In November 2022, following a further appeal by easyJet and Volotea, the Court of Justice partially annulled the Commission’s decision. The Court of Justice found that the Commission had not demonstrated that Italy had granted an undue advantage to easyJet and Volotea. Ryanair’s appeal against the Commission’s decision, based on the same pleas submitted by easyJet and Volotea, is pending before the General Court.

In today’s decision, the Commission has partially revoked the 2016 decision as regards easyJet and Volotea. Similarly, the Commission has decided to withdraw its decision in relation to Ryanair. The Commission will now review the public support granted by Italy to easyJet, Volotea and Ryanair under EU State aid rules, in the light of guidance provided by the Court of Justice.

In particular, the Commission will assess whether the aid granted to these airlines goes wrong beyond what a private operator would be willing to offer under the same circumstances (the so-called “market economy operator principle”).