The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, a €800 million Italian scheme to compensate airports and ground-handling operators for the damage suffered due to the coronavirus outbreak and the travel restrictions that Italy and other countries had to implement to limit the spread of the virus.
Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager in charge of competition policy, said: “Airports are among the companies that have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus outbreak. This €800 million scheme will enable Italy to compensate them for the damage suffered as a direct result of the travel restrictions that Italy and other countries had to implement to limit the spread of the virus. We continue working in close cooperation with Member States to find workable solutions to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, in line with EU rules.”
The Italian scheme
Italy notified the Commission of an aid measure to compensate airports and ground-handling operators for the damage suffered during the period between 1 March and 14 July 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak and the travel restrictions in place.
Under the scheme, the aid will take the form of direct grants. The measure will be open to all airports and ground-handling operators with a valid operating certificate delivered by the Italian civil aviation authority.
A claw-back mechanism will ensure that any public support received by the beneficiaries in excess of the actual damage suffered will have to be paid back to the Italian State.
The Commission assessed the measure under Article 107(2)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which enables the Commission to approve State aid measures granted by Member States to compensate specific companies or specific sectors for the damages directly caused by exceptional occurrences, such as the coronavirus outbreak.
The Commission considers that the coronavirus outbreak qualifies as an exceptional occurrence, as it is an extraordinary, unforeseeable event having a significant economic impact. As a result, exceptional interventions by the Member States to compensate for the damages linked to the outbreak are justified.
The Commission found that the Italian measure will compensate damages that are directly linked to the coronavirus outbreak, and that it is proportionate, as the compensation will not exceed what is necessary to make good the damage, in line with Article 107(2)(b) TFEU.
On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under EU State aid rules.
Brussels, 26 July 2021