The Italian government last week failed in a last-minute effort to avoid a European Commission probe into state financing of flag carrier Alitalia, writes Jeremy Slater in Brussels.

Italian transport minister Pietro Lunardi and his delegation met in Brussels with Jacques Barrot, the European transport commissioner, on 12 January to discuss how to resolve the Italian government's support for the ailing airline.

Following the meeting, Barrot said he would urge the rest of the Commission this week to start a full inquiry into the funding of the state-owned airline. Barrot says he wants to make clear that Brussels takes state aid cases extremely seriously, adding that the Commission was making "no presumption of wrongdoing at this time".

The EC cannot say how long the investigation will take, due to the complexity of the case. Lunardi says he hopes the inquiry, "would be carried out as quickly as possible, so that any problems could be resolved".

A draft Commission document, seen by Flight International, giving procedural guidelines for the inquiry, suggests officials should particularly investigate a €1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) capital increase, which is proposed by Alitalia to help with its restructuring.

Source: Flight International