State aid: Commission approves €4.4 million Romanian aid scheme to compensate regional airport operators for damage suffered due to coronavirus outbreak

The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, a RON 21.3 million (approximately €4.4 million) Romanian aid scheme to compensate Romanian regional airport operators for the damage suffered due to the coronavirus outbreak. In order to limit the spread of the coronavirus, on 16 March 2020, Romania imposed the gradual suspension of most of the commercial flights to and from Romania. Due to those flight bans as well as flight restrictions in other countries, the airlines operating at Romanian regional airports gradually reduced their scheduled flights, culminating in the total cessation of their operations on 25 March 2020. Until 17 June 2020, no scheduled international commercial flights took place at such airports, leaving passenger traffic close to zero. Air traffic started resuming only as of July 2020. Under the scheme, which will be open to operators of Romanian airports with an annual passenger traffic between 200,000 and 3 million, the Romanian authorities will be able to compensate those airports for the net losses suffered during the period between 16 March and 30 June 2020. as a result of the restrictive measures on international and domestic air passenger services implemented by Romania and other countries. The support will take the form of direct grants. The Commission assessed the measure under Article 107(2)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which enables the Commission to approve State aid measures granted by Member States to compensate companies for the damage directly caused by exceptional occurrences, such as the coronavirus outbreak. The Commission found that the Romanian scheme will provide compensation for damage that is directly linked to the coronavirus outbreak. It also found that the measure is proportionate, as the compensation does not exceed what is necessary to make good the damage. On this basis, the Commission concluded that the scheme is in line with EU State aid rules. More information on actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.58676 in the State aid register on the Commission’s competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.