Athens: OA need only pay 41mln

Greece has officially informed the European Commission that debt-ridden Olympic Airways (OA) need only return to the public coffers 41 million euros in illegal state aid, the government said yesterday. In December, the Commission said the floundering airline would have to give back «a total of about 194 million euros» it received in illegal or misused state subsidies. At the time, sources in Brussels had described the decision as a compromise, noting that some estimates placed the sum involved at 1.7 billion euros. Greece had been given two months to submit a payment timetable for Olympic, and, according to sources in Brussels, failed to meet the deadline. But yesterday Transport Minister Christos Verelis claimed the Commission was notified on Thursday that, according to the State Legal Council, Olympic need only return 41 million euros from a 1998 share capital increase. He claimed the Commission had never asked for 194 million, anyway. «That was a sum erroneously reported, mainly in the foreign press,» he said.