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Ryanair Wins EU Court Ruling on Airport Aid

(CN) - Europe's largest budget airline may have ducked repaying a $6.6 million subsidy to Belgium after Europe's second-highest court determined that the European Commission erred in ordering a refund.

In 2000, Ryanair negotiated with Walloon Region and the Brussels South Charleroi Airport - the owner and manager of the Charleroi Airport - over the terms of establishing a base at the Charleroi airport in the Wallonia region of Belgium.

The airport agreed to reduce Ryanair's landing charges and ground-handling fees, and to reimburse the airline for some of the costs of establishing the base.

After reviewing the agreements, the commission declared them "state aid" in violation of antitrust laws.

But the Court of First Instance said the commission erred by refusing to consider the advantages granted by the Walloon Region and the Charleroi Airport. The commission also failed to consider that the region was acting as a private investor, the court ruled.

The commission can appeal the decision to annul its conclusion to the European Court of Justice.

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