On 23 December 2020, the European Commission authorised Greek aid of 120 million EUR, in the form of a direct grant to the airline company Aegean Airlines.
This aid aims to compensate the airline for loss of income suffered, like many others in this sector, due to significantly reduced activities following the coronavirus crisis and the containment measures taken by Member States. The purpose of this subsidy is therefore to compensate for the damage suffered by Aegean Airlines between 23 March 2020 and 30 June 2020.
Greece notified its aid project on the basis of Article 107.2 b) of the TFEU. This provision allows Member States to grant “aid to make good the damage caused by natural disasters or exceptional occurrences”.
In this regard, the Commission confirmed that the COVID-19 pandemic is an “extraordinary occurrence” within the meaning of this provision, due to its exceptional and unforeseeable nature, as well as its serious repercussions on the economy. The Commission therefore considers that Member States are justified to take exceptional measures to remedy the damages linked to this pandemic.
In the present case, the Commission found that the Greek measure fulfills all the required conditions (see our article of 19 March 2020 concerning the conditions to obtain a compensation for exceptional occurrence). It will allow compensation for the damage directly linked to the coronavirus pandemic suffered by Aegean Airlines without being disproportionate, as the amount of 120 million EUR does not exceed the estimated amount of damage directly caused to the airline over the period from 23 March 2020 to 30 June 2020.
Remember that many other aids have already been authorised by the European Commission in the air transport sector on the basis of Article 107.2 b) of the TFEU. In March and April 2020, the Commission approved the French aid scheme aiming to postpone the payment of certain aeronautical taxes as well as aid from Denmark and Sweden to the airline SAS. In May 2020, green light was given to the public loan guaranteed by the German state in favour of Condor. In August and September 2020, the Commission, also on the basis of Article 107.2b) of the TFEU, approved Romania's public guarantee in favour of the airline Blue Air. Finally, in September and October 2020 the Commission also authorised the Italian grant in favour of Alitalia and the Romanian aid in favour of Tarom.