EU Court rejects Ryanair's claim against Latvian state aid to airBaltic

The second supreme court of the European Union (EU) has rejected an appeal by Irish low-cost airline Ryanair against the European Commission (EC) regarding financial support provided by Latvia to the national airline airBaltic to cope with the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, LETA reported October 19.

In June 2020, the EC approved a €250 million Latvian measure to recapitalize airBaltic in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme was approved under the state aid temporary framework.

Commenting on its decision at the time, the EC noted that the airline plays a major role in the Latvian economy, especially as it provides essential connectivity services in the territory of Latvia and from Latvia to other European and international destinations. The company also makes a significant contribution to external trade, as several Latvian companies rely on its air services in contact with business hubs in Europe and the world.

The Commission concluded that the recapitalization measure would help to manage the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak in Latvia. 

Ryanair, however, had appealed to the EU General Court for annulment of this EC decision, considering that the support provided by Latvia to one airline in the aviation sector was not mitigating, but only exacerbating, the impact of the coronavirus. Ryanair considered that less discriminatory measures available to all carriers should have been introduced.

The Irish airline also stated that the EC had not provided sufficient evidence that airBaltic would have gone bankrupt and left the market without the assistance of the state. The airline also criticized the EC for failing to examine whether the aid in question was the least anti-competitive of all available instruments.

The Commission, with the support of Latvia and airBaltic, disputed all these arguments and the EU General Court rejected Ryanair's claim.

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