Brussels, 14 th July 2009
State aid: Commission opens in-depth investigation into Belgium's La Poste after Court annulment of previous approval
The European Commission has opened a formal investigation procedure to examine whether measures in favour of La Poste, the Belgian postal operator, in particular the yearly compensation for public service obligations, are in line with EC Treaty state aid rules. The Commission's initial approval (see ) was overturned by the Court of First Instance (CFI) in February 2009. The opening of a formal investigation procedure gives interested parties the opportunity to comment on the measures under examination. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.
Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: "The opening of a formal investigation gives all interested parties a chance to express their views and will help to provide legal certainty to all actors involved, including La Poste."
On 10 February 2009, the CFI, ruling on appeals brought by two competitors of La Poste, Deutsche Post and DHL International, annulled the Commission's 2003 approval of aid to La Poste. The CFI found that a formal investigation procedure was required in order to guarantee the possibility for competitors to submit their views to the Commission.
In July 2003, the Commission had approved a series of measures in favour of La Poste (see ) after its preliminary assessment revealed no overcompensation to La Poste for discharging its public service obligations.
During the investigation, the Commission will verify whether the yearly compensation for public service obligations paid to La Poste by Belgium is in line with the EU framework for state aid in the form of public service compensation ( see , p.4 ). The Commission will also examine a series of other non-notified measures in favour of La Poste. The Commission's investigation aims to establish in a comprehensive way whether the totality of the measures in favour of La Poste since its incorporation can be considered compatible with the Single Market. This has the advantage of providing legal certainty to all actors involved, including La Poste.
La Poste is entrusted with a number of public service missions for which it is compensated by the Belgium authorities. The principles of the compensation and their ceilings are specified in successive "contrats de gestion", concluded between the Belgian authorities and La Poste for certain periods.
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number C20/2009 in the State Aid Register on the DG Competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-News .