European Commission - Press release
State aid: Commission opens in-depth investigation into aid granted to Nürburgring racetrack in Germany
Brussels, 21 March 2012 - The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to assess whether a €524 million set of aid measures supporting the racetrack and leisure park at Nürburgring in Germany is in line with EU state aid rules. The Commission has doubts whether these measures promote services of general economic interest or alleviate a funding default caused by the financial and economic crisis. The opening of an in-depth investigation gives Germany and interested third parties an opportunity to comment on the measures under examination. It does not prejudge the outcome.
The various facilities of the Nürburgring complex, near the German town of Nürburg, mainly include a racing track and a leisure park. The complex benefited from several support measures, mainly in the form of loans, guarantees, capital increases and revenues from a gambling tax. These measures were granted by the German Land Rhineland Palatinate and by public undertakings controlled by the Land. The support related to expenses for the construction and operation of facilities directly linked to the race track (mainly a tribune), for the construction and operation of facilities for the promotion of tourism (leisure activities, accommodation, events, shopping, dining and gambling) and for the organisation of Formula 1 races. At this stage the Commission takes the preliminary view that all these measures, which have not been notified to the Commission, may have been granted under terms more favourable than the market conditions and may therefore confer an undue economic advantage to the owners and operators of the complex vis-à-vis their competitors. This would distort competition in the Internal Market, in breach of EU state aid rules.
Germany has argued that Nürburgring is a "general" infrastructure, built in the public interest and open for public use and that the measures for the promotion of tourism and for the organisation of Formula 1 races are compensations for public service obligations. At this stage the Commission has strong doubts that infrastructure for motor sport can be exempted from state aid rules and that a leisure parc and race circuit could be considered as services of general economic interest that would not be provided by market forces alone. The Commission cannot also exclude that the beneficiaries were in financial difficulty at the time when the measures were granted. If confirmed, this would mean that none of the measures could be found compatible under the then applicable temporary rules for supporting business during the crisis.
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.31550 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.