Expatica news

Ryanair makes EUR 4moffer over Charleroi

29 October 2004

BRUSSELS – Low-cost airline Ryanair has finally struck a deal with the Walloon government over the EUR 4 million it owes following the European Commission ruling over Charleroi airport.

The Irish company has owed the regional Belgian government the money since February when the EC ordered it to repay some state funding it had received for locating at the airport.

The Walloon government – which gave Ryanair up to EUR 15 million in subsidies – was ordered by the Commission to recover part of the cash. However, Ryanair refused to cooperate, stating it would wait for the result of its appeal over the Commission decision to the European Court of Justice.

Until Thursday, it looked as if the Walloon government might take Ryanair to the Irish courts to force it to pay up. However, on Thursday afternoon, airline boss Michael O’Leary flew to Brussels to announce his company would reimburse the millions – but not directly to the Walloon authorities.

He said he was ready to pay the money into a blocked bank account. “If the appeal by Ryanair ends favourably, those funds will be returned to Ryanair, complete with the interest (EUR 200,000),” he said.

“If the appeal is rejected the funds will be transferred to the region. Ryanair recognises that it is not the Walloon region that is putting the pressure on and doesn’t intend to put the region in a difficult position because of a wrong decision by the Commission.”

Ryanair hopes the Court in Luxembourg will decide in its favour by the end of 2005.

The Walloon government is happy with the offer, but it is still to be confirmed as to whether the Commission will accept it.

The deal has smoothed relations between the Walloon government and Ryanair at a time when Charleroi airport is in the process of renegotiating the company’s contract with it for 2005.

For the time being, O’Leary is not making his habitual threat to leave Charleroi. However, on Friday, La Libre Belgique reported him as saying: “We are currently being courted by a dozen or so European airports and are soon going to be opening up two new bases.”

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Belgian news