EU competition official contests that lame ducks should not be allowed to fly

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Failing national airlines should not be exempt from the European Union’s market-driven competition rules, a top EU civil servant said yesterday. Philip Lowe, director-general for competition at the EU’s executive Commission, attacked lame-duck companies that are «there simply to drain from society» and demand state bailouts, and defended his unit’s refusal to bend EU rules to permit «national champions» emerging. Lowe reserved special ire for stuttering flag carriers – despite transport falling outside his remit. «The words ‘too big to fail’ must be written out of every sector of the European economy if Europe is going to be more competitive,» he told a legal conference. «We can’t allow that situation to go on, in any sector.» The Commission’s Transport Directorate – not Lowe’s unit – is currently probing a rescue plan for ailing Italian airline Alitalia, while a European court is considering whether Greece did enough to recover illegal aid to Olympic Airways.