16 September 2004
BRUSSELS – Irish low-cost airline Ryanair has one month to pay back EUR 3.9 million in illegal subsidies received from the authorities in Belgium’s French speaking Wallonia region or it will face a lawsuit, the Walloon transport minister has said.
Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, Transport Minister Andre Antoine, said he would be forced to sue the low cost airline if it did not repay the money with 30 days.
Ryanair has so far made no direct response to the minister’s calls but has asked for a letter Antoine sent them to be translated into English.
Antoine said on Wednesday that he couldn’t do this as he only has the right to write official correspondence in French or Dutch.
The Walloon authorities originally paid the money to Ryanair as part of a deal to encourage the airline to develop its activities at Charleroi airport, which is in Wallonia.
But in February this year, the European Commission ruled that some aspects of the arrangement between the airline and the Walloon authorities broke EU competition rules, and it ordered Ryanair to give back the disputed cash.
Ryanair is challenging the ruling and has already made it clear it has no intention of returning the money.
In typically blunt style, Ryanair’s colourful boss Michael O’Leary said in a recent newspaper interview that the Walloons would get the two word reply “Foxtrot Oscar” (F**k Off) if they asked for their subsidy to be refunded.
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Belgian news