The European Commission (EC) has already given 'green light' to 17 billion euros in state aid from Portugal to companies in difficulty, namely tourism, demanding that the country safeguard the rights of passengers and consumers.
“For Portugal, so far, 17 billion euros have been approved [em ajudas estatais] and I know that tourism is very important in the whole economy of Portugal. Millions of euros go to companies and the preservation of jobs, also in the Azores and Madeira ”, said in an interview to the Lusa agency, in Brussels, the European commissioner of Justice.
Didier Reynders explained that, due to the crisis generated by the covid-19 pandemic, the community executive is “working in two ways”, both approving “more liquidity for the different sectors most affected by the crisis”, such as tourism, but also guaranteeing “Safeguarding consumer rights” at European Union (EU) level.
“We are trying to work towards a correct application of the package travel directive and the regulation of passenger rights […]. It is important to have a correct application of passenger rights and it is necessary to ensure that consumers are reimbursed ”, insisted the European Commissioner, in an allusion to the effects of the crisis in the tourism and travel sector, of those most impacted by the restrictions and the lack of confidence created by the disease.
"I know that there are great difficulties in the tourism sector, with tour operators, airlines, hotels and restaurants, but in EU legislation there is a right to a refund and of course we must ensure that it is respected", reinforced Didier Reynders.
The already approved amount of state aid is thus an example of what Brussels defends as support for the economy.
The measures approved for Portugal include, for example, the recently approved 'Apoiar Restauração' and 'Apoiar.PT' programs which, together with a fund for the rent of establishments, provide 1.2 billion euros for companies in the sectors most affected by the crisis, as is the case of commerce, restaurants, culture, accommodation and tourist activities.
Other examples are the employment support schemes in the Azores and Madeira.
Already recalling the severe warnings made by Brussels to the so-called ‘vouchers’ law for canceled holidays and trips, temporarily adopted by the Portuguese government and later changed due to the institution’s warnings, Didier Reynders insisted on the “correct application on the ground” of community rules.
"That is why we agreed to make state aid more flexible," he argued in this interview with Lusa.
At issue is the Portuguese decree-law adopted in April 2020 with measures related to the tourism sector – which provided for the issue of 'vouchers' in the event of cancellation of trips organized by tourism agencies and reservations in tourist establishments and local accommodation. -, which was later changed at the insistence of Brussels to safeguard refunds.
Already adopted in mid-March last year was the temporary European framework for state aid, which has extended the support that Member States can provide to their economies in times of crisis generated by the pandemic, in which many companies face serious problems of liquidity.
Due to the persistence of the crisis, this temporary legislation remains in effect until December 31, 2021, having meanwhile been increased the maximum ceilings for state aid per company.
This type of State aid is normally prohibited by EU competition rules.