The European Commission recently issued a formal notice to the Italian government for failures in implementing the EU Airport Charges Directive (2009/12/EC). With infringement procedure 2014/4187, the commission contested the consultation procedure that aimed to regulate charges at five major Italian airports (Fiumicino and Ciampino in Rome, Malpensa and Linate in Milan and Venice airport) through contract agreements between airport management and the Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC). These agreements (subject to approval from the competent ministries) set applicable airport charges, which took into account the relevant development of costs, productivity, volume, projected inflation, return on investment and depreciation.

As per the directive, a new independent supervisory authority (the Transport Regulation Authority) was established under Decree-Law 1/2012. Pending the authority's establishment, the decree-law delegated its functions and duties to the Office for Airport Rights, a new directorate within ENAC.

Little is known about the content of the procedure against the Italian government, which is still in its pre-litigation phase before the European Commission. However, it is possible that the commission believes that the Office for Airport Rights did not meet the directive's independence requirement, to the detriment of airport users.

Another hypothesis could be that when the Transport Regulation Authority entered into service, the airports of Bologna, Bergamo and Catania were assigned to its supervision. This created a binary system not provided for under the directive, which required only one independent supervisory authority.

The commission has assigned time to comment on the alleged non-compliance and the government is working on its formal comments under Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.(1)

For further information on this topic please contact Laura Pierallini at Studio Legale Pierallini e Associati by telephone (+39 06 88 41 713) or email (l.pierallini@pierallini.it). The Studio Legale Pierallini e Associati website can be accessed at www.studiopierallini.it.

Endnotes

(1) This is not the first time that the commission has opened an infringement procedure regarding the airport charges directive against Italy. See, for example, Procedures 2013/2069 and 2013/4115.

This article was first published by the International Law Office, a premium online legal update service for major companies and law firms worldwide. Register for a free subscription.