In the corona crisis, the German federal government helped Lufthansa with billions of euros – with the approval of the EU Commission. The EU court in Luxembourg has now declared exactly that to be void. “The Commission made several mistakes,” said the court of first instance. The EU authority wrongly assumed that Lufthansa could not obtain the six billion euros on the market itself. In addition, the Commission did not set any incentives for a quick repayment and did not ensure that other airlines would not suffer competitive disadvantages as a result of conditions.
The decision concerns part of the state aid package for the airline totaling nine billion euros. The EU Commission had given the green light for this as part of the special regulation due to the pandemic without a formal examination procedure. The competing airlines Ryanair and Condor sued against this decision. The EU court has now decided that the Commission “disregarded the conditions and requirements provided for in the special pandemic regulations”. In the first instance, the ECJ overturned the Commission’s approval decision.
Consequences of the judgment still unclear
The specific effects are not yet known. Against the judgment can before the highest
European court, the European Court of Justice. Lufthansa said it would analyze the verdict and then decide how to proceed. One thing is certain: the billions in aid have long since been repaid, and the German state has made a profit from it. Lufthansa is also back in the black. The airline has therefore now announced: “The stabilization was already completely over before today’s judgment of the court.”
The holiday airline Condor welcomed the verdict. “The court thus shares our legal opinion,” the airline said. She could not immediately comment on any further details because the verdict had to be analyzed first. Condor was itself supported by the state with half a billion euros during the pandemic. Ryanair had also successfully sued against this aid because the Commission had insufficiently justified its approval. The authority was able to get rid of this with an improved decision in July 2021.
The travel restrictions in the pandemic had almost brought Lufthansa’s business to a standstill. In the group with around 138,000 employees, tens of thousands of jobs were on the brink. That is why the federal government supported the largest German airline in spring 2020 with an aid package worth billions.
cwo/kle (rtr, afp, dpa)