State aid: Commission approves aid for the construction of French airport Notre-Dame-des-Landes
The European Commission considers that the public subsidy granted by France to Société Aéroports du Grand Ouest, a company situated in Nantes in western France, for the construction of the Notre-Dame-des-Landes Airport, is compatible with the EU rules on State aid. The project will help improve regional connectivity without unduly distorting competition in the internal market.
The Aéroport du Grand Ouest project will relocate Nantes Atlantique Airport, situated near the city of Nantes, to the site of Notre-Dame-des-Landes, a little over 20 km to the north of Nantes. The main aim of the project is to meet regional development requirements and to resolve the congestion problem at the existing airport. Following the tender procedure, the contract for implementing the project was awarded to Société Aéroports du Grand Ouest, a subsidiary of the Vinci group.
The French authorities notified a subsidy of EUR 150 million to the Commission in July 2013. The Commission assessed the measure in the light of the EU guidelines for State aid in the aviation sector, adopted in 2005. The investigation carried out by the Commission showed that the infrastructure project helped achieve an objective of common interest by tackling the congestion of the existing infrastructure. Furthermore, the French authorities presented a business plan for the project, which showed that the public subsidy was necessary to implement the project and in proportion to the objective pursued.
The assessment of the measure in question in accordance with State aid legislation is without prejudice to the procedure currently under way to ensure that the project complies with European environmental law.
Nantes Atlantique Airport is located some ten kilometres from the city of Nantes. Over the last five years its passenger traffic has risen by 40%, reaching a total of 3 631 693 passengers in 2012, compared with the airport's estimated annual capacity of 3 500 000 passengers. The nearest airports (Rennes, Angers, Vannes) are mainly national in scope and/or do not allow for the development of aeronautical infrastructure.
Certain regions are hampered by poor accessibility from the rest of the European Union, and the major hubs are facing increasing levels of congestion. Regional airports play an important role in ensuring the accessibility of Europe's regions. Against this backdrop, the Commission's aim is to establish more equitable conditions of competition in the aviation sector, while at the same time allowing regional authorities to meet accessibility and transport needs. The application of State aid rules to the aviation sector is part of the Commission's efforts to improve the competitiveness and growth potential of the European Union air transport sector. The European Commission has launched a procedure to revise the current rules (see IP/13/644).
Today's decision concerns one of around 60 on-going cases in the aviation sector relating to the financing of airport infrastructure and operations and airport/airline agreements.
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.37125 in the State Aid Register on the DG Competition website, once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of State aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-News.
Antoine Colombani (+32 2 297 45 13, Twitter: @ECspokesAntoine )