By Foo Yun Chee BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Ryanair lost its fight against state aid to rivals like Air France and Sweden’s SAS on Wednesday after a high European court said such schemes were non-discriminatory amid the COVID pandemic. -19. The Luxembourg-based General Court ruling is the first to address aid measures approved by the European Commission under simpler rules aimed at helping European Union governments prop up crisis-affected businesses. sanitary. The court said the French and Swedish schemes were in line with the block’s rules. The airline industry has been one of the hardest hit by virus-related restrictions and blockades imposed by governments around the world. “This aid scheme is appropriate to repair the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and does not constitute discrimination,” the court said, referring to the French scheme. For the Swedish scheme, it said: “It is presumed that the scheme in question was adopted in the interest of the European Union.” Ryanair said it will appeal to the EU Court of Justice in a process that will likely take several years. The company had questioned the European Commission for approving a French plan allowing airlines to defer certain aviation taxes and Sweden’s loan guarantee scheme for airlines. Both schemes benefited their flag carriers. Europe’s largest budget airline has filed 16 lawsuits against the Commission for allowing state aid to individual airlines such as Lufthansa, KLM, Austrian Airlines and TAP, as well as national plans that mainly benefit flag carriers. EU competition agents have so far raised more than € 3 trillion ($ 3.6 trillion) to help companies affected by the virus in the 27-country bloc. The cases are T-238/20 Ryanair / Commission and T-259/20 Ryanair / Commission. ($ 1 = 0.8288 euros)
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