M.R. ŠTEFÁNIK Bratislava Airport announced on March 12 that has not been officially informed about or requested to cooperate with the European Commission’s investigation of an agreement on airport fees, the airport’s spokesperson Dana Madunická told the SITA newswire.
She was reacting to the EC’s announcement that it is investigating an agreement into Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair’s use of Bratislava airport on suspicion that it may involve unlawful state assistance. “The European Commission already dealt with the issue of unlawful state assistance in January 2007,” said Madunická. “At that time, [Slovak government authorities] provided direct cooperation in the matter. M.R. Štefánik Airport has never communicated directly with the European Commission.”
The EC executive said it opened a formal investigation after an unnamed complainant alleged that Ryanair was receiving preferential, cheaper airport charges for existing and newly-scheduled flights. The EC ordered Bratislava airport to hand over a copy of the deal after it failed to comply with previous requests - something which the airport has so far refused to do. “Without access to this document, and on the basis of the information provided by the complainant, the Commission has doubts about its compatibility with EU rules on state aid,” the EC’s statement said.
The complaint states that an agreement concluded in December of 2005, effective until 2016, grants Ryanair a discount of up to 31 percent on existing destinations and up to 48 percent for new regular flights. The EC investigation will focus on finding out whether the discount prices are intended to bring about long-term profitability. In such case, rules on eligibility for provision of state aid would not apply. The Commission will also examine whether the decision to provide state aid can be ascribed to public authorities. In the event that Ryanair was found to have been provided with state aid, the EC will examine its compatibility with the Treaty Establishing the European Community. The launch of a formal investigation is a procedural measure and does not prejudge any conclusion at which the EC will arrive.