The European Commission has begun an in-depth investigation into whether a loan that Slovakia provided to the country’s state-owned rail freight transport operator, ZSSK Cargo Slovakia, in 2009 is compatible with the EU’s rules on state aid, the TASR newswire was told by the Commission’s Representation in Slovakia on February 24.
“At this stage the Commission believes that the loan – which the Slovak rail freight company will use to finance costs linked to the operation of the company – could constitute state aid that is incompatible with the internal market,” reads a statement by the EU’s executive branch.
In March 2009, the government granted a €166-million loan to ZSSK Cargo to help the company cope with financial problems. According to the Commission, the measure might have given the company an unjustified edge over competitors. “The launch of this in-depth investigation will allow all the interested parties to express their points of view. It does not prejudge the final decision the Commission will take,” reads the statement.
The Transport Ministry would never have provided the loan if it would be detrimental to competition in any way or could be viewed as unpermitted state aid, ministry spokesman Stanislav Jurikovič told TASR on February 24 in response to the EC’s statement. The Commission has asked Slovak for an explanation regarding several questions concerning the loan. TASR
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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25. Feb 2010 at 14:00