The Court of Justice of the European Union has dismissed under a final court decision Ryanair’s action against the State aid granted by Denmark and Sweden to Scandinavian Airlines for damages suffered in the context of the pandemic.
In a recent case analysed by the Court of Justice of the European Union, the Court highlights some important issues concerning the principles and limits of State aid.
Thus, as regards the grounds for granting State aid which consist in compensating the damage caused by natural disasters or other exceptional occurrences, the Court holds that, since it constitutes a derogation from the general principle of the incompatibility of State aid with the internal market, that rule must be interpreted strictly. Previously, the Court had held, specifically, that only disadvantages directly caused by natural disasters or other exceptional occurrences may be compensated for under the latter provisions. It follows that there must be a direct link between the damage caused by the extraordinary event and the State aid and that the damage suffered by the operators concerned must be assessed as accurately as possible.
Thus, the Court rejected Ryanair’s argument based on the fact that the objective of the State aid rules requires the Member State concerned to act as ‘insurer of last resort’, since such an interpretation of that provision is apparent neither from its wording nor from its objective.
In addition to the substantive State aid issues, Ryanair also criticised the Commission’s failure to give reasons for its decisions, arguing that the General Court validated the reasoning that the emergence of the pandemic and the impact this may have had on the quality of the drafting of the Commission’s decisions could excuse the fact that certain crucial elements in the reasoning of the contested decision were lacking, although they would have been necessary to know the actual reasoning.
In view of those objections, the Court reiterates that the requirement to state reasons must be assessed in the light of the circumstances of the case, in particular the content of the measure, the nature of the reasons given and the interest in receiving explanations which the addressees of the measure or other persons directly and individually concerned by it may have. The statement of reasons need not specify all the relevant matters of fact and of law, since the assessment of the statement of reasons must be made not only in terms of its wording but also in relation to its context.