EU ANTITRUST: HOT TOPICS & NEXT STEPS
EU ANTITRUST: HOT TOPICS & NEXT STEPS 2022
Operation of air transport as a service of general economic interest in the context of COVID-19 pandemic Tomáš Kočař Masaryk University Faculty of Law, Department of International and European Law Veveří 70, Brno, 611 80 Czechia e-mail: Tomas.Kocar@law.muni.cz Abstract This paper deals with operation of air transport as a SGEI in the EU and with individual conditions under which such operation of air transport can be realized, mainly in the context of COVID-19 pandemic. These conditions, which are laid down in Regulation (EC) No 1008/2008, are very strict, which makes it difficult for Member States to entrust air carriers with performance of SGEIs in case of extraordinary circumstances, in particular those long-lasting. Thus, the paper proposes changes to the current legislation, such as extension of the emergency procedure or broadening the scope of emergency measures, which would make it easier for the Member States to immediately react to such unexpected situations even in the future. Keywords: Air transport; competition law; COVID-19; SGEI; state aid JEL Classification: K210 1. Introduction The spread of SARS-CoV-2 causing COVID-19 at the turn of 2019/2020 across the world caused not only shock and concerns about the health of the population of individual countries, but in connection with the strict anti pandemic measures significantly restricting movement of people also a strong hit to the world economy. And even to the air transport sector, which is in today’s globalized world highly dependent on passenger transport and was one of the most affected sectors of the world economy. As for illustration, the total number of passengers travelling by air in the European Union (EU) in 2020 decreased by 73.3% compared with 2019 (Eurostat [online], 2021). Hence, in a short time, the thoughts of increasing liberalization of air transport switched to the opposite direction – towards the need to support air carriers which got into severe economic or even existential problems.
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