State may recover €10m

Estonia is considering contesting decision by European Commission, said economy minister Kristen Michal. The Saturday press conference held at the ministry also featured its transportation vice chancellor Ahti Kuningas and Estonian Air CEO Jan Palmér.

Michal: State aid granted to Estonian Air in 2010–2014 was against the rules. European Commission finds it distorted the market. Estonian Air must pay the state back €85m. Estonian Air is unable to do so. Estonian Air ceases to operate. Can the decision be contested and would it be worth it? We must definitely consider it. Even so, a court dispute would not ensure successful operation of Estonian Air.

Estonia has already established a new airline. The plans of the new airline are realistic. The government’s options were: to do something, or to do nothing.

I apologise before the people. It is surely sad to hear that Estonian Air is no more. We have years do discuss who was to blame. We are in no hurry with that.

We will try to wind Estonian Air in a manner civil and polite. I thank all who have had input into the company these past 25 years.

Palmér: We have been preparing for a negative decision for 2.5 years already. It is not easy to manage a company under such threat constantly. The company was developing a new strategy. I do not agree with that woman from Denmark at the European Commission. Estonian Air could have been profitable in the future.

-How long did Estonia know that the decision was going to be negative?

Michal: We knew it, but until European Commission disclosed the decision we could not be sure.

-How much money will the state get back from Estonian Air?

Palmér: €5–10m, perhaps.

-What about the staff?

Palmér: We must terminate the contracts, as we can no longer fly. This starts immediately.

Michal: We have a new company with vacant jobs available.

-What about the planes?

Kuningas: The returning of the first planes has begun.

-Latvians received a positive decision regarding their airline. Isn’t this unfair?

Michal: We may feel sorry that the Latvians fared better. Or think that it is nice that somebody is still flying to Tallinn.