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State aid: Commission approves aid for innovative medical services in remote areas of Saxony

European Commission - IP/13/1206   04/12/2013

Other available languages: FR DE

European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 4 December 2013

State aid: Commission approves aid for innovative medical services in remote areas of Saxony

The European Commission has found German plans to support the setup of a platform for telemedicine services in eastern Saxony in line with EU state aid rules. The platform will allow providing medical services at a distance where the actors, for instance doctors and patients, cannot meet in the same location. The Commission concluded that, in line with EU objectives, the aid will make medical care more accessible for citizens, without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market.

Commission Vice-President in charge of competition policy, Joaquín Almunia, said: 'The telemedicine project in Saxony will improve access to medical services for citizens in remote areas without unduly distorting competition. This is the first Commission state aid decision in the sector and it can serve as an example for future projects.'

The rural areas of eastern Saxony are faced with a limited availability of medical care and with an ageing population. Therefore, Saxony intends to grant up to €10 million over five years for improving the medical care for several thousands of citizens in these areas by making telemedicine services generally available. Telemedicine consists in providing medical services at a distance. Among others, patients could consult their doctor by video telephony and hence avoid a long trip to the hospital.

The aid is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund and will be awarded to a partnership between a specialist medical sponsor (Carus Consilium Sachsen GmbH) and T-Systems International GmbH, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom AG. Although there have been prior telemedicine projects in Germany, their scale and scope was much more limited than the current project in Saxony.

The Commission considers that the development of telemedicine services improves citizens' access to (specialised) healthcare in remote areas and thereby contributes to an objective of European interest. Moreover, the German measure will allow third parties to offer health services on the telemedicine platform for a reasonable fee that will be capped for a period of 10 years. This will limit potential distortions of competition brought about by the aid. The development of new telemedicine applications by the aid beneficiaries will also be restricted, so as to prevent that they control both the telemedicine platform and the applications and crowd out competitors from the market.

The Commission therefore concluded that the measure was in line with Article 107(3)(c) of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union, that allows to grant aid for the development of certain economic activities, provided that it does not adversely affect trading conditions.

Background

Article 107(3)(c) of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TFEU) allows Member States to grant aid for the development of certain economic activities, provided that it does not adversely affect trading conditions.

Telemedicine - the provision of healthcare services at a distance - can help improve the lives of European citizens, both patients and health professionals, while tackling the challenges to healthcare systems.1 Under Article 168(1) of the TFEU, a high level of human health protection shall be ensured in the implementation of all European Union policies. Member States are responsible for the organization and provision of healthcare.

This is the first support for telemedicine infrastructure that the Commission has cleared under EU State aid rules.

The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.35679 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.

Contacts :

Antoine Colombani (+32 2 297 45 13, Twitter: @ECspokesAntoine )

Maria Madrid Pina (+32 2 295 45 30)

1 :

See also Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on telemedicine for the benefit of patients, healthcare systems and society (COM (2008) 689 final).


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