EU court decision: Condor aid worth millions is void

As of: May 8, 2024 12:14 p.m

Ryanair went to court over Condor’s state rescue operation in the wake of the Thomas Cook bankruptcy. Now EU judges have declared the aid worth millions to be null and void. What does this mean for Condor?

The General Court of the European Union has overturned an earlier decision by the European Commission that had approved state aid for the holiday airline Condor. The German state saved Condor in 2019 with a loan from the development bank KfW after the then parent company Thomas Cook went bankrupt.

The judges decided that the EU Commission should have initiated a formal investigation procedure. The approval of a “restructuring aid” amounting to 321 million euros is therefore void.

Does Condor have to pay the money back immediately?

The court in Luxembourg found that the Brussels authority had not sufficiently examined whether the aid would guarantee Germany an appropriate share of Condor’s future capital gain. But that would have been necessary.

The fact that the court overturned the approval does not necessarily mean that the company has to pay back the money immediately. On the one hand, the judgment can still be taken before the highest European court, the ECJ. In addition, the EU Commission could issue a new decision under certain circumstances.

Ryanair is taking legal action against unfair advantages

With so-called restructuring aid, Germany wanted to support the airline in the form of two write-offs of 90 and 20.2 million euros, which were part of the 321.2 million euro restructuring plan launched in October 2019. The EU Commission, which as the highest competition watchdog ensures that companies do not receive unfair advantages through state aid, approved the project in 2021. The Irish airline Ryanair defended itself against this before the EU court.

The judges now granted Ryanair’s application – but only with regard to a violation of procedural rights as part of the necessary review process. The judges made it clear that Ryanair could not object to the legality of the decision. The Irish airline has not demonstrated that its competitive position could be significantly affected by the aid in question and that it is individually affected by the Commission’s decision.

Condor aids a case for European courts

It is not the first time that aid for Condor has been an issue in European courts. An earlier decision by the EU Commission on Corona aid from Germany for Condor was initially overturned by a Ryanair lawsuit. The Brussels authorities then approved the Corona aid again in 2021 – and with it the restructuring aid that was now at issue. However, another lawsuit by Ryanair against a 380 million euro rescue loan for Condor after the Cook bankruptcy was dismissed by the EU court.

The Condor case is one of many in which Ryanair is taking action against state aid for competitors. So far, the Irish airline has been successful in some cases but not in others. Condor and Ryanair had successfully sued together last year against the German Corona financial injection for Lufthansa, which Lufthansa has long since repaid. In this case, a ruling by the European Court of Justice is still pending.

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