Brussels, 14 December 2010
State aid: Commission approves aid to promote heritage conservation in two Polish salt mines
The European Commission has authorised, under EU state aid rules, a €240 million aid for protection and security works in the heritage salt mines of Wieliczka and Bochnia, near Cracow, in Poland. The Commission found the aid to be in line with EU state aid rules, because it contributes to preserve national cultural heritage without adversely affecting trade between Member States.
Commission Vice-President in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia commented: "The Wieliczka and Bochnia salt mines are an important geological and historical site with traces of industrial activity that date back to the 13th century. The Polish support measure will allow their conservation without unduly distorting competition."
The Commission has authorised public funding granted by Poland between 2004 and 2013 for the preservation of two abandoned salt mines located near the city of Cracow.
Rock salt deposits were extracted from the Wieliczka and Bochnia salt mines from the 13th to the end of the 20th century. Afterwards, parts of the mines were adapted for public visiting and today, "touristic paths" lead visitors through underground museums, including chambers, shafts, chapels and even lakes. Wieliczka is registered on the UNESCO list of the World Heritage Sites. As the income from the tourist activities is not sufficient to cover the costs to preserve these heritage sites, state funding is provided for reinforcing some rock formations, preventing the inflow of water, and other conservation work.
The Commission examined the measures under Article 107(3)(d) of the EU Treaty, that allows aid for cultural objectives. It concluded that the works concerned by the aid were technically indispensable to preserve the sites and that the aid was limited to the minimum necessary to carry out these works.
The non-confidential versions of the decisions will be made available under the case numbers NN66/2010 and NN67/2010 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.