On 18 July 2017, the European Commission very discreetly adopted a negative decision without recovery regarding Belgian subsidies granted to certain airlines at Brussels Airport.
In October 2014, the European Commission opened an in-depth investigation into a Belgian scheme that aimed to grant around EUR 19 million subsidies per year over the period 2014–2016 to the airport manager of Brussels Airport on the condition that this amount was allocated to certain airlines flying from the airport. The airlines eligible for these subsidies had to carry more than 400,000 passengers departing from Brussels Airport in 2012. The airlines were Brussels Airlines, Jetairfly and, to a lesser extent, Thomas Cook.
The formal rationale behind the Belgian Royal Decree granting the subsidies investigated by the Commission was to finance infrastructure linked to security. Nevertheless, it did not apply to all airlines operating from this airport and therefore could not constitute a general measure. In its decision to open an in-depth investigation, the European Commission expressed doubts that subsidies were compatible with the internal market as it did not accept the Belgian authorities’ justification regarding the 400,000 passengers per year threshold.
Three years later, the European Commission has finally adopted a negative decision on those subsidies for supporting Belgian airlines. However, no recovery was imposed as the airlines in question had already reimbursed the Belgian State for the illegal subsidies.