Italy, EU clash over ITA-Lufthansa case

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The fate of the merger between Lufthansa and Italy’s ITA Airways, based on an agreement signed with the government in May, is now in doubt after Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni questioned the European Commission for stalling its go-ahead for the merger at the G20 summit in New Delhi.

Lufthansa is to acquire a 41% stake in ITA Airways for an investment of €325 million, with an option to buy the remaining shares at a later date – but the European Commission’s failure to give the go-ahead prompted Meloni to express her disappointment at this year’s G20 summit in New Delhi.

“It is weird that the EU Commission is blocking the solution to the ITA problem”, Meloni told a press conference at the G20 summit.

The issue was also addressed during a meeting between Economy Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti (Lega/Id) and German Finance Minister Christian Lindner before the summit.

“The same European Commission that for years has been asking us to find a solution to the ITA problem, when we find a solution to the ITA problem, it blocks it. So, we are no longer understanding and would like an answer”, Meloni said, reserving a new sting for EU Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni, who Giorgetti questioned on the dossier.

However, while the Italian economy ministry said in a note that the dossier had not yet received the Commission’s green light, the EU executive says it has not received any notification of the deal, with a spokesman recalling that it is up to the parties involved in the deal to notify of the transaction.

“The Commission remains in close contact with the parties to discuss the transaction before its official notification. These pre-notification contacts are continuous and part of the standard process for assessing a complex operation”, an EU source added.

EU Commissioner Didier Reynders, who is in charge of the portfolio following the dismissal of former EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, is expected to soon meet Giorgetti, according to the Italian Economy Ministry.

“The response of the EU executive entrusted to a spokesperson is positive because it is the prerequisite for a process that will be very fast […] The notification of the agreement for the sale of a minority stake in Ita to Lufthansa to the European Competition Commission is accepted, by practice, only at the end of an investigation that the Commission itself is carrying out very meticulously as part of a pre-notification phase that has already begun”, a note from the ministry reads.

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