Ryanair wins EU court challenge to Condor’s Covid-19 aid
Ryanair notched up a third win in its campaign to topple billions of euros of Covid-19 bailouts for rival carriers, after European Union judges faulted the EU’s approval of a €550 million German loan to airline Condor.
The ECJ's General Court, the bloc’s second-highest tribunal, on Wednesday said the European Commission’s decision gave “an inadequate statement of reasons” for approving the measure.
But in light of the “economic and social context marked by the Covid-19 pandemic,” judges put on hold any order to repay the aid until after the EU’s antitrust arm has re-examined the case and issued a new decision fixing the procedural errors.
Investor Attestor Ltd last month acquired a majority stake in the German airline, rescuing a company that’s survived on government support after the coronavirus pandemic punctured the boom in air travel. The EU-approved German loan Ryanair is contesting helped keep Condor afloat.
Ryanair has filed more than two dozen challenges to EU approvals for pandemic aid doled out by governments to carriers, including Deutsche Lufthansa AG and Air France-KLM.
“During the Covid-19 pandemic over 30 billion euros in discriminatory state subsidies has been gifted to EU flag carriers,” Ryanair said in a statement. “Unless halted by the EU Courts in line with today’s ruling, the effects of market distortion caused by this state aid will be felt for decades.”
The Brussels-based commission said it “will carefully study the judgment and reflect on next steps,” noting the court’s decision “to suspend the effects” of the ruling until a possible new EU decision on the aid.
The Irish low-cost carrier, which last month won two of its other challenges, argued that the aid for selected airlines creates an unfair advantage and will help rivals to emerge stronger, slash fares and swallow up others.
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