The Commission now has a month in which to report on the competition implications of an eventual merger, which involves the French airline taking a 37.5 per cent stake. During that time, the Commission can make suggestions to resolve any potential problems, such as route-sharing.
Analysts have suggested that a Sabena-Air France partnership could fall foul of competition requirements through Air France's relationship with UTA, in that it would dominate European routes to Africa.
Loss-making Sabena has been desperately seeking a financial partner for more than a year in a struggle to recapitalise. The Belgian government has pledged to invest pounds 150m in the carrier providing the carrier can attract a further pounds 100m in outside investment.
The Air France deal has been pending for a year but complicated by the political implications of such a merger. Relations between Walloon and Flemish coalition partners in a deeply divided government are at an all-time low.
With the press regularly invoking the prospect of a separatist Flemish state within Belgium, there is concern at the takeover of the national carrier by a French company.Reuse content