EU’s Kroes wants courts to tackle illegal state aid

By Reuters Staff
October 19, 2009

European Commissioner in charge of Competition Neelie Kroes delivers a speech at a conference on State Aid Private Enforcement in Brussels October 19, 2009. Germany has assured GM and the Opel Trust that its 4.5 billion euros ($6.70 billion) offer in financial aid for Opel is not tied to the choice of an investor or a plan, European Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd said on Monday. Kroes raised concerns in a letter to the German government last week about German government aid that is to be provided to Opel under a planned sale of the carmaker to Canada's Magna. REUTERS/Sebastien Pirlet  (BELGIUM POLITICS BUSINESS TRANSPORT) BRUSSELS, Oct 19 (Reuters) – The European Union’s antitrust chief urged national courts on Monday to play a bigger role in combating illegal state aid from EU governments to companies.

European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes, who polices state aid in the 27-country bloc and is reviewing cases including financial aid promised by the German government to carmaker Opel, said courts could be strong allies.

The European Commission, the EU executive, can ask national governments to claw back aid if it decides such assistance does not comply with EU state aid and internal market rules.

But it would welcome the support of national courts, which can also review whether aid is illegal.

“Courts have a special place in all this, they could in fact be our strongest allies … And because they are close to home, they can sometimes do this better and faster than we could,” she told a conference.

“National courts, based on their national rules, are often more powerful and can step in before aid has even been actually paid,” she said.

Kroes, who is also looking into a number of bank rescue schemes launched during the credit crunch, said the Commission was ready to assist to national courts.

Kroes wrote to Germany last week expressing concern that its promises of aid had slanted the bidding process for Opel in favour of Canadian auto parts firm Magna.

The German trust set up to oversee Opel said on Monday it saw no reason to re-open the sale.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee) ((foo.yunchee@thomsonreuters.com; tel +32 2 287 6844; Reuters Messaging: foo.yunchee.reuters.com@reuters.net))
Keywords: EU STATEAID/COURTS

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Monday, 19 October 2009 13:11:34RTRS [nLJ143159] {EN}ENDS

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