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Ryanair expects Charleroi thumbs down

Published on 27/01/2004

27 January 2004

BRUSSELS – Cut-price airline Ryanair expects it will be told to pay back millions of euros given to it by Belgium’s Walloon government, a company spokesman said on Tuesday.

“Some aspects of the arrangement will have to be reimbursed,” Jim Callaghan, the company’s director of regulatory affairs told journalists in Brussels.

“It will probably run into millions of euros,” he added.

In 2002 the Walloon authorities paid Ryanair EUR 3.8 million as part of a bid to encourage the airline to increase its activities at Charleroi airport in southern Belgium. Most of the money was used to pay for an advertising campaign.

But Ryanair’s competitors complained to the European Commission about the deal, saying the low-cost airline had benefited from illegal ‘state aid’. The Commission, acting in its role as the EU’s anti-trust watchdog, is set to rule on the case on 3 February.

 Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has said he will sue the European Commission at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg if it rules against his firm.

Charleroi is an economically depressed town and the arrival of Ryanair has given a much-needed boost to the local economy. The Irish airline accounts for practically all of the passengers passing through the town’s airport  — a total of 1.32 million people in 2003.

 [Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Belgian news