Brussels Airport sues Brussels South Charleroi Airport in court for unfair competition

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Brussels Airport asks a Namur court to confirm fees  increased to €15.6 million for Charleroi Airport

The truce was short-lived in the Belgian airspace between Brussels Airport Company (BAC), the operator of the national airport, and its regional sister Brussels South Charleroi Airport (BSCA), the operator of the Gosselies airport platform. Reportedly, BAC management has introduced a “voluntary intervention” action with the Court of First Instance of Namur about an internal dispute between the Walloon Region and the Walloon Airports Company (Sowaer) on one side, and BSCA on the other.

Brussels Airport requests confirmation of the decision of the Walloon authorities and Sowaer imposing BSCA to now pay a larger fee for the use of the Charleroi airport infrastructure, pursuant to a decision of the European Commission. Indeed, Europe has asked the Walloon Region to increase the annual fee paid by BSCA and require fee arrears for 2014. The latter amounted to just over € 9 million which come in addition to 66,329 euros in interest. As a result of the European decision, the Walloon Region and Sowaer imposed BSCA to the signing of an amendment to the 2006 service agreement increasing the fee from € 3.1 million to about € 15.6 million.

The Region and Sowaer therefore have given notice to BSCA to pay € 9 million and sign the amendment. The company managing the airport complied with the decision by paying the amount, but still appealed to the Namur court for the annulment of the two decisions of the Walloon authorities. It is in this process that Brussels Airport came in with a voluntary intervention.

According to its management, BAC “would suffers a real damage” due to a distortion of competition (due to lower royalties considered as illegal state aid) if the court granted the request of BSCA. For, his lawyers argue in their motion for voluntary intervention, “it is essential that the applicant (BAC), as operator of an airport platform serving the same catchment area as the plaintiff (BSCA) is a competitor.” Brussels Airport states that thereby sharing the same market as Charleroi Airport, it has “a personal, direct and legitimate interest to intervene in this case.”

The management of BSCA is surprised by the approach of BAC especially as it brought its action in voluntary intervention on May 2. “This is becoming harassment by BAC, since this is not the first time that the Brussels Airport is attacking us. This is not fair play either of their side, because their action goes  against a collaboration relationship we want to build with the national airport. We are complementary, not competitors,” said Laurent Leveque, Chairman of the board of BSCA.

He recalled that following the attacks of 22 March, which have devastated the national airport and forced it to close for several days, Charleroi airport has “fulfilled its role of complementary site of Zaventem. Their approach is childish and gives a bad image of Belgium on the international scene. It’s unfortunate, sad and a pity to see that BAC maintains a radical attitude towards us.”

A voluntary intervention action is intended to give us access to information in the dossier. Otherwise, you get nothing. This is a common approach in this type of case,” retorts Marc Descheemaecker, Chairman of BAC.

Source: Belga, L’Echo

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