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Business

EU Court Upholds Ryanair Suit Over Charleroi Airport

Budget airline Ryanair won a court case against the EU, which means the low-cost airline will not have to pay back millions of euros in subsidies that it received from the Belgian state for establishing a base there.

Ryanair jet on the runway

Ready for takeoff: European court gives Ryanair the nod

Ryanair in 2000 obtained favorable terms from the Wallonia region -- the Flemish-speaking, generally northern part of Belgium -- when negotiating its first continental base at Charleroi Airport outside of Brussels.

These included a 50 percent discount on landing charges and compensation for any loss of profit arising from subsequent hikes in such charges.

'Illegal aid' is just business, court says

Ryanair later agreed to base between two and four aircraft at Charleroi for a 15-year period in return for an additional 90 percent discount on the airport's 10 euro ($14) handling charge per passenger.

The European Union's executive arm had referred the case to EU judges, arguing that such terms constituted illegal state aid.

But the Court of First Instance in Luxembourg, Europe's second-highest court, ruled Wednesday, Dec. 17, that the deal was part of normal economic activity on the part of Wallonian regional authorities.

Commission could appeal decision

"The mere fact that that activity is carried out in the public sector does not mean that it can be categorized as the exercise of public authority," judges said.

The European Commission has two months to decide whether to appeal the decision.

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