Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Flying to Ithaca: The Olympic Epic Continues

Another chapter was written Monday in the legal odyssey involving the European Commission and the Government of Greece concerning State aid the latter provided to Olympic Airways, its longsuffering national carrier whose corporate structure has been twice transmogrified over the last six years to keep it (barely) flying.  See previous discussions of Olympic on the blog here and here.  The European Court of Justice fined the Greek Government euro 2 million for its failure to comply with an earlier ruling ordering the scofflaw State to adhere to a 2003 decision from the Commission demanding recovery of all illegal aid granted to Olympic.  See Case C-369/07, Comm'n v. Hellenic Republic, 2009 E.C.R. 00 (publication pending) (available here).  See also Commission Decision 2003/372, 2003 O.J. (L 132) 1; Case-415/03, Comm'n v. Hellenic Republic, 2005 E.C.R. I-3875.  The latest ECJ decision also imposes a daily euro 16,000 fine which is set to begin in one month should Greece again fail to adhere to the Court's earlier ruling.

While the dispute is not the stuff Homeric hymns are made of, it is a reminder that the State aid phenomenon for airlines has not completely dissipated.  Greece's steadfast refusal to follow the European Community's State aid rules with respect to its inefficient national carrier and its apparent willingness to take on substantial penalties for doing so demonstrates the extent to which national pride remains an animating force in air transport policy.

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