Brussels, 2 May 2013
State aid: Commission endorses public service compensation for Belgian post
The European Commission has authorised under EU state aid rules Belgian plans to compensate the Belgian postal incumbent bpost for discharging a series of public service obligations between 2013 and 2015. The Commission found the measures to be in line with EU state aid rules on services of general economic interest (SGEI), in particular because the aid does not exceed the net cost for providing the public service mission entrusted to bpost.
Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia said: “Belgium has cooperated with the Commission to ensure full compliance with our new rules on SGEI. Today's decision allows bpost to receive adequate compensation for the provision of essential public services to Belgian citizens, while ensuring that such services are delivered in an efficient and cost-effective manner. "
In March 2013, Belgium notified the Commission of plans to finance services of general economic interest (SGEI) entrusted to bpost by the 5th Management Contract over the period 2013-2015. Among others, bpost will ensure the distribution of newspapers and periodicals, the home delivery of pensions, basic banking services and the maintenance of a widespread network and receive a yearly compensation of around €300 million.
The Commission assessed the measure under the rules for state aid in the form of public service compensation, adopted in 2011 as part of the Commission's new SGEI package, the so-called "Almunia package" (IP/11/1571).
As foreseen by the SGEI package, Belgium organised a public consultation which confirmed the essential social and economic role of the public services entrusted to bpost for Belgian citizens. The amount of compensation was determined on the basis of the new calculation methodology. The compensation mechanism also includes incentives for bpost to increase the efficiency and quality of its public services. The Commission therefore concluded that the compensation will not exceed the cost for fulfilling the services and could therefore not be used to cross-subsidise commercial activities. Furthermore, Belgium committed to organise a competitive, transparent and non-discriminatory tender for the delivery of newspapers and periodicals in Belgium and will award a concession to the selected operator for taking over the provision of this service as of 1 January 2016.
Today's decision on the 5th Management Contract is also based on the commitment by Belgium to promptly recover €119 million overcompensation (plus related interest) which bpost received through the prolongation of the 4th Management Contract over 2011-2012.
bpost is the leading postal operator in Belgium and its core business is collecting, sorting, transporting and delivering letters and parcels.
In January 2012, the Commission already approved a pension relief of €3800 million for bpost, but ordered Belgium to recover €417 million of incompatible aid from bpost, resulting from overcompensations for its public service missions in the period 1992-2010 (see IP/12/45 and MEMO/12/38).
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.31006 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.