December 11, 2007 / 2:27 PM / 12 years ago

Ryanair says Brussels acts against it

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The president of Ryanair (RYA.I) lashed out at the European Commission on Tuesday, saying it had moved speedily against the low-cost airline on state aid cases but dragged its feet when Ryanair complained about others.

In this file photo Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary speaks at a news conference, on current security measures at UK airports following recent security alerts, in London August 18, 2006. O'Leary lashed out at the European Commission on Tuesday, saying it had moved speedily against the low-cost airline on state aid cases but dragged its feet when Ryanair complained about others. REUTERS/Stephen Hird

Government aid is prohibited to private firms except under special conditions, for example to help develop poor regions.

Irish-based Ryanair has made six complaints but the European Union executive has yet to launch formal charges in any of them, company president Michael O’Leary told a news conference.

“We still have no action on any of our state aid complaints despite the fact that they’re more than two years old,” he said.

By contrast, O’Leary said the Commission had launched formal complaints in three cases involving Ryanair.

“The European Commission is running around investigating spurious complaints against Ryanair airports like Luebeck and Pau,” he said.

A Commission spokesman said the EU’s executive arm was acting properly.

“We know what we’re doing. We are following all the cases with the same attention and naturally cases can take different times for the exchange of information and analysis,” Michele Cercone said.

“When we consider that there is a need for a formal investigation to be opened, we will do it.”

In the meantime there were exchanges of letters and other action, he added.

Ryanair has sought to spur action by filing five lawsuits at the EU’s second-highest court, the Court of First Instance.

The intent is to “embarrass the European Commission and to force the European Commission into acting on these state aid complaints against the flag carrier airlines”, O’Leary said.

Ryanair’s allegations of illegal aid are:

- One billion euros (717 million pounds) to Air France-KLM (AIRF.PA) in the form of reduced domestic airport charges. No action after 21 months.

- One hundred million euros to German carrier Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) through its sole use of terminal 2 at Munich airport. No action after 26 months.

- Five hundred million euros to loss-making Olympic Airways OLY.UL in Greece. No action after 12 months.

- Twenty million euros to Alitalia AZPIa.MI subsidiary Volare through airport debt write-offs. No action after 25 months.

- A total 1.7 billion euros to Alitalia through recapitalisation and a debt write-off. No action after 25 months.

O’Leary said the Commission had acted against Ryanair on allegations concerning the Pau, France airport after 12 months; in Luebeck, Germany after 18 months and in Tempere, Finland after 30 months.

Ryanair has two other suits pending. One is an appeal against a Commission decision that it had received illegal state aid for Charleroi airport in Belgium.

The other is an appeal against the Commission’s rejection of its proposed acquisition of Irish carrier Aer Lingus AERL.I.

Reporting by David Lawsky; editing by Dale Hudson

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