Ryanair hits out at spineless eurocrats after ECJ ruling – ‘Stop giving in to countries!’

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The airline hit out at the €30 billion “discriminatory” state aid package for EU flag carriers sanctioned by the European Commission. It came after the European Court of Justice ruled against Ryanair’s complaints that French and Swedish government-backed schemes distort competition across the bloc. Judges at the General Court said government support, which was sanctioned by the Commission, was acceptable under EU law.

Ryanair said: “One of the EU’s greatest achievements is the creation of a true single market for air transport, underpinned by the principle of a common EU airline licence – one for each airline.

“A nationality condition in a State aid scheme is plainly incompatible with the single market.

“Ryanair is a truly European airline. We have no rich and powerful ‘home country’ to subsidise us in times of trouble.

“Nor do we want discriminatory aid. Our instinct in a crisis is to seek efficiencies and cost savings, to offer more routes at lower fares – while remaining Europe’s greenest airline.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic over €30 billion in discriminatory state subsidies has been gifted to EU flag carriers and, if allowed to stand, this will distort the level playing field in EU aviation for decades to come, giving chronically inefficient national airlines a leg up on their efficient low-fare competitors.”

Ryanair has appealed the ECJ’s decision this morning, claiming the taxpayer-funded packages are detrimental to consumers and businesses alike.

The spokesman added: “Now is the time for the European Commission to stop caving in to national governments’ inefficient bail-out policies and start protecting the single market, Europe’s greatest asset for future economic recovery.”

Airline chief Michael O’Leary has also challenged Lufthansa’s €11 billion bailout by the German government.

It has filed 16 cases in total to test state aid rules in the EU court.

They include challenges against Scandinavian Airlines, Air France, Finnair, KLM and TAP Air Portugal.

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Commenting on the Swedish and French state aid packages, the ECJ said the Covid bailouts were acceptable under EU law and do not “constitute discrimination”.

The Luxembourg-based court said: “The loan guarantee scheme put in place by Sweden to support airlines holding a Swedish operating licence amid the COVID-19 pandemic and intended to remedy the serious disturbance to the economy of that Member State is compatible with EU law.”

It added: “The deferral of the payment of taxes introduced by France to support airlines which hold a French licence amid the COVID-19 pandemic is consistent with EU law.

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“That aid scheme is appropriate for making good the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and does not constitute discrimination.”

Ryanair’s appeal is due to be heard by ECJ judges in May.

Commenting on the Lufthansa challenge, Mr O’Leary last summer said: “It is extraordinary that Lufthansa announced it did not need so much state aid, yet the German government was committed to favouring its ‘global champion’ instead of putting measures in place to support air traffic recovery in a manner that would benefit all airlines delivering traffic at German airports.”

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