01 Oct 2014
EUROPEAN COMMISSION DAILY NEWS – 01 OCTOBERBrussels Daily
There has been a marked decrease in the number of on-going infringement cases in recent years whilst the number of cases resolved through in problem solving mechanisms such as EU Pilot has increased, according to the 31st Annual Report on monitoring the application of EU law, just published by the European Commission.
The European Commission has adopted seven decisions following in-depth investigations concerning public support granted to airports and airlines in Belgium, Germany, Italy and Sweden. In particular, the Commission has concluded that the airports of Zweibrücken (Germany) and Charleroi (Belgium) received state aid which was incompatible with EU rules and must now be recovered. In addition, the Commission has opened an in-depth investigation concerning state financial support granted to certain airlines flying from Bruxelles-National airport (Zaventem). The decisions are based on the Commission’s new guidelines on state aid to airports and airlines (see IP/14/172) adopted in February 2014 as part of its State Aid Modernisation (SAM) strategy (see IP/12/458). For further information on each of the decisions please see MEMO/14/544 .
The European Commission has concluded that subsidies worth €46 million granted in the Spanish region of Castilla-La Mancha to finance the digitisation and extension of the terrestrial television network in remote areas were incompatible with EU state aid rules. The measure only benefits terrestrial digital technology, in breach of the principle of technological neutrality, and also discriminates between different terrestrial operators. As a result, some operators of terrestrial platforms received a selective advantage over their competitors and have to pay it back to the Spanish state. In June 2013 the Commission had already concluded that similar measures covering other regions of Spain were incompatible with EU state aid rules (see IP/13/566).
After an in-depth investigation, the European Commission has concluded that public support measures in favour of the racetrack, leisure park and hotels at Nürburgring in Germany were incompatible with EU state aid rules and gave the companies then owning or operating them an undue competitive advantage. The beneficiary companies are all in insolvency proceedings. The Commission has also found that their assets have been sold in an open and transparent tender at their market value. The buyer is therefore not liable to pay back the incompatible aid.
The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to examine whether Portugal’s plans to grant €36.15 million public financing to Volkswagen Autoeuropa, a subsidiary of the Volkswagen group, for an investment project in the Setubal region are in line with EU state aid rules. The opening of a formal investigation gives interested third parties the possibility to comment on the proposed measure. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.
The European Commission has concluded after a thorough investigation that a German measure authorising investment aid to Propapier for the construction of a paper mill in Eisenhüttenstadt (Brandenburg, Germany) is in line with EU state aid rules. In particular, it has concluded that the positive effects of the aid on regional development outweigh its negative effects on competition. The Commission has re-assessed this case, after the annulment of its original decision of 2008 by the EU General Court, in light of the guidance provided by the court (case T-304/08). In a separate investigation, the Commission also found that a new waste water plant and surrounding infrastructure built by the German state do not involve state aid, as they are general infrastructure, not dedicated specifically to Propapier. Moreover, the wastewater treatment fees charged to Propapier cover the incremental costs and involve no state aid.
The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to ascertain whether specific deficit financing measures granted by the Brussels public authorities only to the public IRIS hospitals in the Brussels Capital region and not to private hospitals in the region, are in line with EU state aid rules. The opening of an in-depth investigation gives the Belgian authorities, the complainants and other interested third parties an opportunity to submit their comments. It does not prejudge the final outcome of the investigation.
The European Commission has extended the scope of an ongoing in-depth investigation opened in October 2013 to verify whether the new Gibraltar corporate tax regime selectively favours certain categories of companies, in breach of EU state aid rules. The Commission will now also examine the Gibraltar tax rulings practice. The extension of an in-depth investigation gives interested third parties an opportunity to submit comments on the measures under assessment. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.
The European Commission has authorised public funding for the closure of an uncompetitive coal mine in Italy, the Nuraxi Figus mine, the only operational coal mine in Italy. Council Decision 2010/787/EU on state aid to facilitate the closure of uncompetitive coal mines allows Member States to grant, under certain conditions, aid to the coal industry with a view to facilitating the closure of uncompetitive hard coal mines until December 2018. The Nuraxi Figus mine is operated by Carbosulcis S.p.A. and produces coal used for the production of electricity. Coal production will cease at the end of 2018. The closure plan results in a gradual decrease of the overall amount of aid granted to cover production costs, in line with the Council Decision. Moreover, the plan includes measures to mitigate the environmental impact of the production of coal. Italy has also committed to support miners who will lose their jobs and their re-adaptation in order to help them find new jobs outside the coal industry. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.20867 in the State Aid Register on the DG Competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-News.
In 2012, EU28 inland freight transport amounted to 2 186 billion tonne-kilometers, down by 11.7% compared with its level in 2007. Road transport was still by far the dominant freight transport mode (74.5% of total inland freight transport performance in 2012) and its share has remained almost unchanged since 2007. This information comes from a publication issued by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, on modal split of inland freight transport in the EU.
The second ministerial conference of the Global Alliance took place yesterday, 30 of September, in Washington and gathered global decision-makers at invitation of EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström and US Attorney General Eric Holder. The Global Alliance against Child Sexual Abuse Online has been up and running since 2012. Concrete goals have been set and additional countries have joined forces, but the fight to eradicate the online exploitation of children is far from complete. Ministers and representatives from participating countries, experts from law enforcement authorities, the private sector, victim advocacy groups and frontline organisations assessed how to expand the fight against global proliferation of child sexual abuse online.