The European Commission has decided to refer Portugal to the EU’s Court of Justice for failure to comply with EU common rules on the allocation of airport slots. At congested airports in the EU, the airport slot coordinator is in charge of allocating landing and take-off slots in a non-discriminatory, neutral and transparent manner, one of the essential pillars of a system that allows fair competition and best possible allocation of scarce slots to competing airlines.
Under EU law, Member States are responsible for providing a legal framework that separates the functions of the slot coordinator with those of any interested party. Moreover, the coordinator’s financing system must guarantee its financial independence. The current Portuguese slot coordinator is part of Aeroportos de Portugal S.A. (or ANA), the airport’s managing body. The slot coordination personnel is employed by ANA and the coordinator’s budget is approved by the ANA Board of Administration. Under these circumstances, the Commission considers that the slot coordinator cannot function independently and autonomously from ANA. Furthermore, up to now ANA has covered all the slot coordinator’s costs. Consequently the Commission considers that the slot coordinator is not financially independent from ANA and that this may prejudice fair competition.
The European Commission sent a reasoned opinion to Portugal in January 2013 (see MEMO/13/22). In the absence of Portugal adopting the needed legislative measures, the European Commission has decided to refer the case to the Court of Justice.