February 8, 2012 / 11:26 AM / 7 years ago

EU regulator probes French aid for La Rochelle airport

BRUSSELS, Feb 8 (Reuters) - EU antitrust regulators are investigating whether subsidies to La Rochelle airport in France and marketing deals between it and various airlines have breached EU state aid rules, in the latest move against airports suspected of receiving unfair support.

Located in western France, La Rochelle airport is owned and operated by the local Chamber of Commerce and has posted deficits nearly every year since 2002.

Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair, France’s Airlinair and British airline Flybe operate services to the airport.

The European Commission said on Wednesday the opening of an in-depth investigation would allow third parties to submit comments on the support measures for La Rochelle.

“The Chamber of Commerce received subsidies of approximately 3 million euros between 2002 and 2005 from various public bodies... to finance various infrastructure projects at La Rochelle airport,” the EU executive said in a statement.

“The Commission will verify whether the subsidies were necessary to carry out the investment, whether the aid was proportionate to the objectives pursued and whether the infrastructure had satisfactory medium-term prospects for use,” it said.

The regulator will also look into cash advances of more than 8 million euros granted to the airport operator since 2002 and marketing support contracts and discounts on airport charges for new routes given to various airlines.

The Commission started investigations last month into airports in Germany, France and Sweden over aid granted to the airports by public authorities.

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