The European Commission has announced new guidelines to allow airports and airlines promote sound use of public resources for growth-oriented initiatives under its state aid modernisation (SAM) strategy.

SAM strategy aims at fostering growth while minimising distortions of competition that would undermine a level playing field in the single market.

Designed to ensure good connections between regions and the mobility of European citizens, the new guidelines are in line with EU state aid rules.

"Our aim is to ensure the mobility of citizens while preserving a level playing field."

Commission vice-president for competition policy Joaquín Almunia said: "The new state aid guidelines are a key ingredient for a successful and competitive European aviation industry.

"They will ensure fair competition regardless of the business model, from flag carriers to low-cost airlines and from regional airports to major hubs. Our aim is to ensure the mobility of citizens while preserving a level playing field between airports and airlines."

To ensure the right mix between public and private investment, the new guidelines define maximum permissible aid intensities depending on the size of an airport.

The new rules are expected to take effect next month, when start-up aid will be provided to airlines to launch a new air route for limited time only.

Regional airports will get operating aid for a transitional period of ten years within which they have to adjust their business model to cover operating costs.

In a separate development, the commission announced that the agreements between Aarhus airport and Ryanair in 1999 and public interventions at Berlin Schönefeld Airport did not involve state aid.

The commission also approved €12.3m investment aid granted by different regional bodies to the Marseille Provence airport.