Fresh fine for OA ahead of switch

As Marfin Investment Group (MIG) prepares to start operating the country’s national airline, the government was ordered yesterday to pay more than 2 million euros by a European court for failing to reclaim unlawful state aid from Olympic Airlines. The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg also said the Greek government must pay a daily fine of 16,000 euros until it complies with a 2005 court ruling that ordered it to take back the subsidies. The EU court four years ago ordered the airline to return 194 million euros in aid that still hadn’t been reclaimed after an order to do so by the European Commission, the EU’s executive agency. Five months later, the Brussels-based Commission followed with a second decision, adding 540 million euros to the tab. The daily 16,000-euro penalty will start to accrue on August 7 until Greece has complied with the EU court’s 2005 ruling. The lump-sum payment of 2 million euros will have to be paid into the Commission’s account, the court said. Olympic Airlines, currently owned by MIG, will be renamed Olympic Air as of October when the investment group takes over its flight operations. «Olympic Air will serve passengers with a new fleet of aircraft, dynamic flight program, modern sales system and, above all, consistency in quality services,» it said in a statement. Greece’s government won EU approval last September to sell unprofitable Olympic and its ground-handling and maintenance services businesses separately in an effort to end years of disputes over government subsidies. In response to news of the European court decision yesterday, Transport Minister Evripidis Stylianidis said the fines regard decisions when PASOK was in power, adding that the conservative government will respect the court’s decision.