Aid Finnish road: EC opens investigation procedure
Brussels, Belgium – The European Commission decided today to initiate a formal State aid investigation in respect of the Tieliikelaitos dossier in Finland. The Commission is examining whether some of the benefits granted by the Finnish State to this public company in preparation for the opening-up of the road maintenance market in Finland may be incompatible with the provisions of Community law applicable in this area.
The public company Tieliikelaitos is responsible for planning, constructing and maintaining the Finnish road network. The undertaking was part of the Finnish administration until 2000, when it became a public company.
It has been granted the following benefits by the Finnish State:
-Grant of a loan at less than the market rate;
-Direct contracting at prices above the market rate;
-Transfer of land at what might be an advantageous price;
-Special rules for the reduction of the workforce;
-Protection against bankruptcy and preferential fiscal treatment.
The first four benefits were granted for a transitional period up to the opening-up of the market for roadworks in Finland, from 2001 to 2004. The Commission considers that these aids could be compatible with the common market if Finland proves that they are limited to what is strictly necessary to compensate for the extra costs incurred by the public company.
However, the bankruptcy protection and tax benefits result from the public status of the company and are not limited in time. Here, the Commission doubts that these benefits merely offset the extra costs incurred by the company because of its status and considers that they could affect trade in a way which is not in the Community interest.
Finland and interested third parties are now invited to submit their comments on this matter to the Commission.