EU law update: Ryanair’s German state aid ‘unlawful’

Commission reviews Bus Éireann compensation, and supports Ireland’s proposal for plain cigarette packaging

 Ryanair: European Commission  ordered Ryanair to repay more than €300,000 paid by a German airport to sustain the Irish budget airline’s business, ruling it amounted to illegal state aid. Photograph: AP Photo/Shawn Pogatchnik

Ryanair: European Commission ordered Ryanair to repay more than €300,000 paid by a German airport to sustain the Irish budget airline’s business, ruling it amounted to illegal state aid. Photograph: AP Photo/Shawn Pogatchnik

 

During September and October there have been some interesting decisions made by both the European Commission and the European Court of Justice. On October 15th, the Commission announced its decision that Ryanair has received unlawful state aid granted through Leipzig-Altenburg airport in Germany because the agreement between the parties is not capable of being profitable for the airport “even in the long run”. Ryanair has announced its intention to appeal the decisions, which require it to repay more than €1 million to the relevant EU member states. Ryanair did receive better news on September 18th, when the Court of Justice ruled that national laws preventing airlines from charging a price supplement for checked-in baggage are in breach of EU law. However, the Court noted that hand baggage cannot be subject to a price supplement if it meets reasonable requirements.

Bus services

Dublin Bus

On September 3rd, the European Court of Justice gave a preliminary ruling that provides guidance on the interpretation of “parody” as an exception to copyright law. Deckmyn v Vandersteen was a Belgian case in which the copyright in a comic book drawing was allegedly infringed by a calendar produced by the Flemish nationalist party. In answering a number of questions posed by the Belgian Court of Appeal, the Court of Justice held that “parody” is an EU law concept that must be interpreted uniformly and in accordance with its usual meaning in everyday language in all member states. The Court also noted that the two essential characteristics of parody are to evoke an existing work while being noticeably different from it and to constitute an expression of humour or mockery.

On October 9th, Minister for Children James Reilly told the Dáil that the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, Tonio Borg, had informed him that “the Commission has made no negative comment” on Ireland’s proposal to be the first EU country to introduce plain cigarette packaging. Notification of the proposal (as a “technical standard”) to the European Commission was made last June. Ireland has received widespread support for the proposal from politicians, anti-smoking lobby groups and cancer charities, and there are signs that other EU member states (such as France) will soon follow suit. However, objections to the notification were submitted to the European Commission by the US Chamber of Commerce and nine European countries: Italy, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain. Despite the objections, it appears that the commission itself is favourable to the proposal.

Kate Leahy and Victoria Balaguer are committee members of the Irish Society of European Law