Competition weekly news summary
Friday, December 4, 2009

Conferences and Speeches

  • Five years of sector and antitrust inquiries
    Keynote address at "Competition 09 Summit", Brussels, Neelie Kroes
    3 December 2009
    "If I have learnt anything in the last five years it’s that we need to work together to address competition problems. The successes of the ECN and ICN have meant more enforcement by more enforcers. The steps forward on private enforcement will mean more enforcement by more enforcers. And the renewed use of tools like sector inquiries has meant more success in pro-actively finding and solving competition problems."
  • GDF Suez commits to open French gas market
    Opening remarks at Press conference, Brussels, Neelie Kroes
    3 December 2009
    "Any new potential supplier wanting to enter the French gas market obviously needs access to gas pipelines and liquefied natural gas terminals. Without sufficient access to this infrastructure, a company will be unable to import gas to offer to customers, no matter how competitive it may be. Consequently, preventing new market entrants from gaining access to infrastructure hinders the development of competition in energy markets by depriving industrial customers and household consumers of a choice of supplier."

Antitrust

  • Commission accepts commitments by GDF Suez to boost competition in French gas market
    3 December 2009
    The Commission has rendered legally binding commitments offered by GDF Suez to boost competition on the French gas market. In particular, the commitments address Commission concerns that GDF Suez may have closed off competitors from access to gas import capacity into France in breach of EU rules on abuse of a dominant market position. In response to the Commission's concerns, GDF Suez offered a major structural reduction of its long-term reservations on French gas import infrastructure capacity. In the light of GDF Suez's commitments, the Commission has now closed its investigation.
  • Commission accepts commitments by GDF Suez to boost competition in French gas market – frequently asked questions
    3 December 2009

  • Commission welcomes Lithuanian proposal to reduce mobile termination rates
    30 November 2009
    The Commission welcomed the proposal of the Lithuanian telecommunications regulator RRT to decrease mobile termination rates (MTRs) in Lithuania by around 60% in the coming two years. In addition, as from 31 December 2012 at the latest, RRT plans to set MTRs at the level of the cost of an efficient operator, based on a cost model in line with the Commission's Recommendation on Termination Rates. However, RRT wanted to reserve the possibility to introduce a transitional period until July 2014 prior to reaching efficient termination rates. The Commission's letter stresses that no such additional transitional period should be granted and that operators' obligations to grant access to their respective networks to competitors are unilateral and unconditional.

Mergers

State aid

  • Commission authorises Romanian temporary aid scheme to grant compatible aid of up to €500 000
    4 December 2009
    The Commission authorised a Romanian measure to help businesses to deal with the current economic crisis. Aid of up to €500 000 per firm may be granted until 2010 to businesses facing funding problems because of the current credit squeeze. The scheme is in line with EU state aid rules, because it is limited in time, respects the relevant thresholds and is addressed to companies which were not in difficulty before 1 July 2008.
  • Commission opens in-depth investigation into new tax based funding system for Spanish public broadcaster RTVE
    2 December 2009
    The Commission opened a formal investigation into the new tax based funding system for the Spanish public broadcaster RTVE. Spain is planning to modify the public broadcasting system by abolishing advertising and other commercial activities of RTVE and replacing this source of income by newly introduced taxes on TV and telecommunications operators. The Commission has doubts whether the new taxes are in line with EU law and in particular with rules on electronic communications networks and services.
  • Commission endorses €14.3 million aid for Volkswagen in Bratislava, Slovakia
    2 December 2009
    The Commission authorised €14.3 million of aid, which the Slovak authorities intend to grant to Volkswagen Slovakia, part of the Volkswagen AG, for the transformation of an existing plant in Bratislava. The Commission found the measure to be compatible with EU state aid rules, because it will significantly contribute to the development of the region's economy without unduly distorting competition.
  • Commission opens in-depth investigation concerning Spanish modular housing company Habidite Alonsotegi
    2 December 2009
    The Commission opened a formal investigation procedure into two agreements between BIZKAILUR, a public entity owned by the provincial authorities of Bizkaia, and a group of private investors. These agreements concern the establishment of Habidite, a construction module factory, in Alonsotegi, Bizkaia. The Commission considers at this stage that the commitment by BIZKAILUR to purchase 1 500 houses from the new Habidite Alonsotegi factory may involve state aid. The Commission also has doubts regarding the conditions at which Bizkailur will provide land for industrial use to the Habidite Alonsotegi factory, which could constitute state aid.
  • Commission conditionally approves training aid of up to €57 million to Ford Romania
    2 December 2009
    The Commission authorised, subject to certain conditions, aid of up to €57 million planned by Romania in favour of Ford Romania's extensive training programme for its current and future employees at the Craiova car plant. The Commission found the aid to be in line with EU rules on training aid because it is targeted at redressing a verified market failure - underinvestment in training - and is appropriate as policy instrument. It has a demonstrated incentive effect and respects the relevant thresholds. However, to ensure that the aid amount corresponds to training expenses effectively incurred, that distortions of competition are minimised and that employees benefit in full from the skills acquired through the training, the Commission imposed conditions regarding the payment of the aid and reporting and monitoring requirements.

Court

  • Commission welcomes Court ruling on excise duty exemptions for Alumina production
    2 December 2009
    The Commission welcomes the judgment by the European Court of Justice (case C 89/08) setting aside the judgment of the General Court (Joined Cases T-50/06, T-60/06, T-62/06 and T-69/06) in the "Alumina" case. The General Court had annulled a Commission's decision of December 2005 (see IP/05/1542) that had found exemptions from the excise duty on mineral oils used as fuel for alumina production in France, Ireland and Italy to be incompatible with EU state aid rules and had ordered their recovery. The General Court had raised on its own initiative the plea that the Commission decision was insufficiently motivated as regards the classification of the measure as new and not as existing aid, and had given judgment without discussing the matter with the parties. The Court of Justice referred the case back to the General Court for examination of the pleas put forward by the three Member States and the two companies seeking annulment of the Commission decision.
  • Joined cases T-427/04 and T-17/05 France and France Télécom v Commission
    30 November 2009
    The Court of First Instance (now, after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the General Court) ruled on an appeal by France and France Télécom against a Commission decision of 2 August 2004 (see IP/04/981) that had found business tax exemptions for France Télécom incompatible with EU state aid rules and had ordered France to recover the aid from the beneficiary. The ruling upholds the Commission decision in all points and dismisses the appeals.

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Published by the Competition Directorate General of the European Commission. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the official position of the European Commission. Neither the Commission nor any person acting on its behalf is responsible for the use which might be made of the above information.

© European Union, 2009. Reproduction is authorised provided the source is acknowledged.

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