European Court of Justice: Penalty on Greece for Non-Recovery of illegal State Aid to Olympic Airways

In 2002, the Commission took the view that certain aid granted by Greece to Olympic Airways was incompatible with the common market for failing to comply with certain conditions initially laid down. The aid had to be recovered without delay. Faced with inertia from Greece, the Commission first made an application to the Court in 2003. A judgment holding that Greece had failed to fulfil its obligations was delivered in 2005.Following difficulties encountered by Greece in implementing that judgment, the Commission brought a new action before the Court, seeking a declaration that Greece had not complied with the Court’s judgment and the imposition of a periodic penalty payment and a lump sum penalty payment against Greece.The Court today delivered a second judgment on failure to fulfil obligations, accompanied by a dual financial penalty: a periodic penalty payment and a lump sum penalty payment.The Court found that Greece’s failure to fulfil obligations has lasted for more than four years. It concerns the common market, the establishment of which is an essential task of the European Community. Moreover, the control of aid to air transport is of considerable importance, since that market is, by its nature, a cross-border market. However, the amounts of aid in respect of which Greece has not proved repayment constitute only a relatively small part of the total sum.The Court therefore imposed upon Greece a periodic penalty payment of EUR 16 000 per day of delay in implementing the judgment of 2005, counting from one month after the delivery of the present judgment, in order to allow Greece to demonstrate that it has ended the failure to fulfil obligations.The Court recalled that cumulation of the two penalties in based on the capability of each to fulfil its own objective and depends on the circumstances of each case. The Court, on a just assessment of the circumstances of this case, determined the amount of the lump sum penalty payment at EUR 2 million.Source: ECJ press release 59/09 of July 7, 2009; find full text here>>.

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