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Brussels, 8 September 2004

Commission authorises State cofinancing of theme park project in Alsace

The European Commission decided today to approve the financing of the Bioscope theme park in Alsace, which is to open in June 2006 in Ungersheim in the Upper Rhine. The Bioscope project was launched in 1994 by the Alsace region. It will be a scientific, educational and recreational park specialising in the themes of health, life and the environment, which should enable visitors to learn about those topics whilst having fun.

The regional authorities have decided that Bioscope will be operated as a public service concession whereby the State finances the purchase of the land and part of the investment costs, and then grants a private company a 30-year concession to build and operate the park. The concession holder compensates the State by paying a fee based on turnover.

The Commission received a complaint concerning the methods used by the State to finance Bioscope. Following the complaint, the Commission initiated an in-depth investigation on 29 October 2003 in order to determine whether the local authorities' contribution to the financing of the project was compatible with the Community rules on state aid.

The procedure allowed France, the beneficiary and third parties to express their views on the matter.

Having examined those views and examined the detail of the cofinancing of Bioscope by the State, the Commission concluded that the cofinancing could be regarded as state aid within the meaning of Article 87(1) of the EC Treaty, but that the aid arrangements were compatible with the criteria of the multisectoral framework on regional aid for large investment projects.

The Commission has therefore closed its formal investigation procedure with a positive decision authorising the aid.

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