Global law firm White & Case LLP has advised Toscana Aeroporti on obtaining approval for a grant from the Italian Government.
On March 1, 2021, the European Commission (EC) approved the allocation of State Aid by the Italian Government, and disbursed by the Tuscany Region, to Toscana Aeroporti S.p.A, the operator of the airports of Florence and Pisa. White & Case advised Toscana Aeroporti on its contact with the Tuscany Region, drafting relevant sections of the notification, demonstrating to the EC that the grant was of fundamental importance to remedy the damage incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic and providing answers to the EC’s requests for information.
The EC was notified of the State Aid on November 13, 2020, under Article 107(2)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which considers as compatible with the internal market “aid to make good the damage caused by natural disasters or exceptional occurrences.” The EC had previously recognized that the COVID-19 pandemic qualified as an exceptional occurrence on March 13, 2020.
Toscana Aeroporti saw its passenger numbers plummet as Member States began putting in place mandatory quarantine measures, shutting down all non-essential movement and instituting travel bans, with a drop of approximately 97 percent between mid-March and mid-June 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. The number of passengers has still not returned to pre-pandemic levels.
The approach to determining the duration of the compensation period in aviation state aid cases is currently being debated more broadly. On January 19, 2021, the Airports Council International – Europe (ACI Europe) addressed a public letter to European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager expressing the urgency for airport operators to be able receive state aid under Article 107(2)(b), for as long as travel restrictions will be imposed by States”. ACI Europe specifically insisted on the need to allow Member States to provide support for damages incurred beyond June 30, 2020, something the EC has so far not done. ACI Europe has also suggested further expanding the amount of aid for unrecovered fixed costs under the Temporary Framework, and the possibility for airports to benefit from Air Connectivity Restart Schemes.
The White & Case team which advised Toscana Aeroporti included local partner Kai Struckmann (Brussels), partner Ferigo Foscari and local partner Piero de Mattia (both Milan) and associate Niccolò Piga (Brussels).
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