Brussels, 25 th June 2009
State aid: Commission requests Belgium and the UK to implement Transparency Directive
The European Commission has addressed formal requests under the EC Treaty infringements procedure to Belgium and the United Kingdom to communicate measures implementing the Commission Directive 2005/81/EC amending the Directive on the transparency of financial relations between Member States and public undertakings (80/723/EEC - see ). Member States were required to implement the Directive in national law by 19 December 2006. The requests take the form of "reasoned opinions", the second step in infringement procedures under Article 226 of the EC Treaty. Belgium and the UK now have two months to notify to the Commission the measures they have taken to implement the Directive. Failing this, the Commission may refer them to the European Court of Justice.
Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: "It is clearly in the interest of European citizens that the Commission is in a position to verify that public money is used to provide public services and not to subsidise commercial activities. The UK and Belgium are the only Member States that have not complied with their financial transparency obligations and they must do so promptly."
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.
On 7 November 2007 the Commission sent letters of formal notice under EC Treaty infringement procedure (Article 226) to Belgium and the UK (see ). In these letters the Commission sought information on whether Belgium and the UK had adopted the necessary measures to ensure that companies receiving state compensation for the discharge of a public service while exercising commercial activities keep separate accounts, as required by the financial transparency Directive.
Neither Belgium nor the UK has informed the Commission of the entry into force of the necessary implementing measures.