The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, a French scheme with a budget between €140 and €700 million to compensate ski lifts operators for the damages suffered due to the restrictive measures introduced by the government to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “The continued waves of the coronavirus outbreak have brought ski lifts on standby throughout the winter season, triggering significant losses for their operators and ski resorts overall. This scheme will enable France to compensate ski lift operators for the damages suffered due to restrictive measures taken to contain the coronavirus. We continue to work closely with Member States to find effective solutions to support companies in these difficult times, in line with EU rules.”
The French scheme is designed to compensate ski lift companies, operating in winter sport resorts, for the turnover loss suffered as a result of the governmental restrictions necessary to limit the spread of the coronavirus that ban access of the general public to these ski lifts.
Under the scheme, ski lift operators will be entitled to compensation in the form of direct grants for damages incurred between 1 December 2020 and 30 April 2021 or the end date of the governmental restrictions affecting ski lifts, whichever is the earliest. The end date of the eligible period will depend on a possible extension of the governmental restrictions currently in place, but cannot in any case run after end-April 2021. The grants will cover up to 49% of the estimated turnover loss. The French authorities will also verify that there will be no overcompensation on the basis of the net losses incurred because of the pandemic. France will thus ensure that no individual beneficiary receives more in compensation than it suffered in damages and that any payment in excess of the actual damage is recovered.
The Commission assessed the measure under Article 107(2)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which enables the Commission to approve State aid measures granted by Member States to compensate specific companies or sectors (in the form of schemes) for damage directly caused by exceptional occurrences.
The Commission considers that the coronavirus outbreak qualifies as such an exceptional occurrence, as it is an extraordinary, unforeseeable event having a significant economic impact. As a result, exceptional interventions by the Member States to compensate for the damages directly linked to the outbreak are justified.
The Commission found that the French aid scheme will compensate damages that are directly linked to the coronavirus outbreak. It also found that the measure is proportionate, as the envisaged compensation does not exceed what is necessary to make good the damage.
The Commission therefore concluded that the scheme is in line with EU State aid rules.