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Commission approves public support to Frankfurt-Hahn airport

Financial support given to Frankfurt-Hahn airport in Germany is in line with EU state aid rules, the European Commission has said.02 Aug 2017

Support provided by the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate allows the airport to continue to serve the area's transport needs until private investment allows it to return to viability, the Commission said.

The regional airport is located in Rhineland-Palatinate, approximately 120 km west of the city of Frankfurt / Main. In 2016, the airport's traffic was around 2.6 million passengers and 72,600 tonnes of cargo.

The airport is currently loss-making and has been controlled by the state of Rhineland-Palatinate since 2009.

On 1 March 2017, the state signed a share purchase agreement with the Chinese HNA Group for the sale of its 82.5% of shares in the airport.

The state aims to cover the airport's expected operating losses over the period 2017-2021 up to a maximum amount of €25.3 million. If the operating losses turn out to be lower than that amount, less state aid will be paid, the Commission said. In the meantime the HNA Group will make the investment needed to return the airport to viability.

Public funding is allowed under EU rules to cover the operating losses of smaller regional airports until 2024 under conditions including that a credible business plan is presented for the return of the airport to viability by April 2024.

Frankfurt-Hahn airport is located in an economically weaker area and is important for the local economy, providing around 11,000 jobs in the region. There are no other airports located within a radius of 100 km, or one hour's traveling time, reducing the potential negative effects of the support on competition and trade, the Commission said.

Earlier this year the Commission widened the scope of its rules on public investment in ports and airports to encourage infrastructure development.

The 2014 General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER) was extended to cover ports and regional airports, culture and 'outermost regions'. Under the EU state aid rules member states must normally notify the Commission of state aid plans and wait for approval before the measure can be implemented. The GBER exempts some aid measures from this obligation.