Brussels, 9th November 2007
State aid: Commission launches infringement procedures against seven Member States for failure to implement Financial Transparency Directive
The European Commission has decided to send formal requests for information under EC Treaty infringement procedures (Article 226) to Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom for their failure to notify the Commission of national measures to implement Commission Directive 2005/81/EC amending the Directive on financial relations between public authorities and public undertakings (80/723/EEC). In addition, the Commission has also decided to address similar formal requests to the Slovak Republic and Latvia, which have notified implementing measures which do not comply with the requirements of the Directive. The requests take the form of letters of formal notice, the first stage of infringement procedure under Article 226 of the EC Treaty. The Member States now have two months to reply to the Commission's concerns.
Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes commented: "The full implementation of the Transparency Directive is crucial to enable the Commission to check that public money is used to pay for providing public services. That is very much in the European taxpayers' interest.".
Commission Directive 80/723/EEC imposes a general transparency obligation on financial relations between public authorities and public undertakings. The Directive (as amended in 1985 (85/413/EEC) and 1993 (93/84/EEC)) also requires Member States to collect and submit to the Commission, upon request, certain financial data concerning large public undertakings active in the manufacturing sector.
Commission Directive 2000/52/EC extended the transparency requirements to cover the obligation of keeping separate accounts for public and private companies which, on the one hand, are entrusted with special or exclusive rights or operate services of general economic interest and receive state aid related to these services and, on the other hand, also carry out other activities.
Commission Directive 2005/81/EC modified the definition of undertakings required to keep separate accounts. The obligation now applies to all undertakings which are entrusted with a special or exclusive right, or operate a service of general economic interest and receive for it public service compensation in any form, whether or not it is state aid, while also carrying out other activities. Separate accounts identify the costs imputable to the service of general economic interest and make it possible to check that the correct amount of compensation has been paid.
Commission Directive 2006/111/EC of 16 November 2006 codified and replaced the original Transparency Directive and its amendments (including the amendment of 2005) when it entered into force on 20 December 2006. This does not however affect Member States' obligation to respect the implementation deadlines set out in the abovementioned Directives.
Member States were required to implement Commission Directive 2005/81/EC in national law by 19 December 2006. Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom have so far failed to communicate their national implementing measures to the Commission. Latvia (due to a translation error), and the Slovak Republic have notified implementing measures which do not comply with the requirements of the Directive.