The EU Commission has concluded that the bridging loan of 400 million euro granted to Alitalia in 2019 represents illegal state aid in accordance with community standards. Italy must therefore now make itself return from the company that money, plus interest. This was announced by the EU executive itself.
The European Commission had already noted in September 2021 that
Ita Airwayswhich had acquired part of Alitalia’s assets in 2021, is not the economic successor of Alitalia and which therefore
it is not required to repay the illegal state aid received from Alitalia. In May 2017, the national airline was placed in
bankruptcy procedure special under Italian bankruptcy law, while continuing to operate as an airline.
Loans to Alitalia In order to keep Alitalia operational, in 2017 and 2019, the government granted the company loans amounting to €900 million and €400 million, respectively. These loans have never been repaid. In 2018, the Commission launched a formal investigation into whether two loans granted in 2017 (for a total of €900 million) complied with EU state aid rules. In February 2020, the EU Commission launched a formal investigation into whether the additional €400 million state loan granted by Italy on 26 October 2019 was in line with EU state aid rules. In September 2021, the “illegality” of the sums paid by the Italian state was finally established.
What did the EU Commission decide? The EU Commission concluded that, in granting the 400 million euro state aid loan in 2019, Italy did not behave as a private operator would have done, having not assessed in advance the probability of repayment of the loans, plus the interests, but aimed at guaranteeing the continuity of the service of Alitalia’s national and international flights. Brussels considered that the aid could not be approved as rescue aid under the R&R aid guidelines. In particular, the airline had already benefited from previous aid, namely the two loans granted in 2017. Therefore, the new loan would breach the obligation
only one required by the R&R Guidelines. On this basis, it was established that no private investor would have granted the loan to the company at the time and that the loan gave Alitalia “an unfair economic advantage over its competitors on domestic, European and global routes”, which constituted aid of incompatible state.