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PR(03)14: The EFTA Surveillance Authority closes the proceedings against a compensation scheme for express bus operators in Norway by way of a conditional decision

16.7.2003

Following a complaint against a compensation scheme for express bus operators, the EFTA Surveillance Authority initiated the formal investigation procedure against the compensation scheme for express bus operators in December 2000.

Having assessed the comments submitted by the Norwegian Government as well as third parties, the Authority has come to the conclusion that the compensation scheme can be regarded as compatible with the functioning of the EEA Agreement, provided that certain conditions are respected.

The Authority considers that aid granted under the said scheme cannot be regarded as compensation for the provision of public services. In the Authority’s view, the Norwegian Government has not demonstrated that express bus operators providing regular passenger transport were subject to public service obligations which generated extra costs, compared to what these bus operators would have done in their own commercial interest. The Authority was not satisfied that the compensation would be limited to any such extra costs.

However, the Authority took the view that the compensation scheme could be regarded as necessary to offset losses of competitiveness by those providing regular passenger transport vis-à-vis the private car. The Authority’s new guidelines on State aid for environmental protection, which took effect as from 23 May 2001, require the scheme to be limited in time and the aid to be limited to 50% of extra costs. In this respect, the Authority concluded that, based on the information submitted, these conditions were not fulfilled by the compensation scheme. Therefore, and in order to ensure full compliance with the new Environmental Guidelines, the Authority decided to approve the compensation scheme only under the conditions that (1) the compensation scheme is limited in time until 22 May 2006 and that (2) compensation is limited to 50% of the extra costs due to the autodiesel levy. The Authority clarified that any amounts exceeding this ceiling would have to be recovered from the aid recipients.

For further information, please contact Mr. Amund Utne on tel. +32 2 286 18 50.

16 July 2003




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