European Commission - Press release
Brussels, 30 May 2012 - The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to examine whether a compensation decided by the Italian Consiglio di Stato in favour of Simet SpA for bus services provided between 1987 and 2003 is compatible with EU state aid rules. On the basis of available information, the Commission has doubts that a public service compensation is necessary to retroactively finance services that were provided years ago and for which it is not clear that there was a genuine public service obligation. The opening of an in-depth investigation gives interested parties the possibility to comment on the proposed measure. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.
"The Commission fully recognises the role and importance of services of general economic interest as part of the EU model of social market economy. However, public money should make a real difference for citizens rather than subsidise services that market forces can provide, especially in times of budgetary constraints. In the case of Simet, the Commission has doubts that a public service obligation was really entrusted to the company and that a retroactive compensation is necessary for services that were provided up to 25 years ago" said Joaquín Almunia, Commission Vice-President in charge of competition policy.
In 1999, Simet requested retroactive public service compensation for its inter-regional scheduled bus service starting from 1987. Since the Italian authorities refused this request, Simet brought legal action before the Italian administrative courts. By a judgment of March 2010, the Consiglio di Stato (Italian Supreme Court for administrative matters) recognised Simet’s right to compensation from 1987 to 2003. The Italian authorities have notified the issue to the Commission for assessment under the state aid rules.
Public compensation for transport services should normally follow the rules of EU regulation on passenger transport by rail and road (Council Regulation (EEC) 1370/2007). At this stage, the Commission has doubts that the compensation for Simet complies with the provisions of this Regulation. In particular, it is not clear:
Simet SpA is a private company operating a network of inter-regional scheduled bus connections between Calabria and other Italian regions based on concessions granted by the Italian State. In addition, Simet also carries out other activities, including international travel and tourism services and bus rental.
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.33037 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.