The European Commission said on Wednesday it had launched an in-depth investigation into the air transport sector in Belgium, France and Germany, focused on financial arrangements at the airports of Charleroi, Angouleme and Dortmund.
The Commission, which acts as regulator for competition and state aid matters, said it would look at the arrangements between public authorities and the airports, as well as "rebates and marketing agreements concluded between these airports and some of the airlines using them".
"On the basis of the information at its disposal the Commission cannot exclude that the measures in favor of the three airports and their customer airlines involves state aid which gives them an undue advantage vis-a-vis their competitors and is thus incompatible with the internal market," the Commission said in a statement.
It had extended the scope of an investigation opened in December 2002 into Ryanair's arrangements with Charleroi Airport, and opened two new in-depth investigations into the financing of airports at Angouleme and Dortmund.
"Investments by public authorities into companies carrying out economic activities are in line with EU state aid rules when they are made on terms that a private player operating under market conditions would accept," the Commission said.