Brussels, 2 March 2005
The Commission today decided to launch a formal procedure to investigate the State aid paid by Denmark to Combus, a company which provides public transport by bus. It questions whether the investments made in 1999 and 2001 by Denmark to Combus, a public company, to prepare for its restructuring and privatisation are in conformity with European law.
The Commission must assess whether or not Denmark’s investments in Combus constitute State aid. If they do, the Commission will consider whether the aid is compatible with European rules, and in particular if it complied with the guidelines for the restructuring of firms in difficulty.
The Commission will first consider whether Denmark acted like a private investor in a market economy for all or part of the measures taken. If the formal investigation concludes that Denmark did act in this way, the investments will not constitute State aid.
However, if the formal investigation concludes that the investments do constitute aid, the Commission will have to check whether the Community guidelines to help with the restructuring of firms in difficulty have been followed, in particular with regard to the restoration of the firm to viability, minimising the aid, the avoidance of distortions of competition, and compliance with the “one time, last time” principle. The Commission's decision to initiate this new investigative procedure follows on from the annulment by the Court of First Instance, in March 2004, of the Commission’s previous decision in March 2001 to authorise this investment.