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PR(02)14: The EFTA Surveillance Authority decides to open formal investigation procedures against several derogations from environmental taxes in Norway

30.8.2002

By today’s decision, the EFTA Surveillance Authority has opened a formal investigation procedure regarding aid in the form of derogations from several environmental taxes in Norway. The decision addresses exemptions from the tax on electricity consumption, exemptions from the CO2 tax as well as the abolishment of the SO2 tax for certain industries. Other possible aid measures in the form of exemptions from environmental taxes (such as exemptions from the tax on heating oil) will be addressed by the Authority at a later stage.

By decision of 23 May 2001, the Authority adopted new Environmental Guidelines (Press Release PR (01) 05). In this context, the Authority proposed to the Norwegian Government to bring all existing aid schemes, which would fall under these guidelines, in line with the new guidelines before 1 January 2002.  In June 2001, the Norwegian Government signified its agreement to this proposal.

In the following, the Authority held informal discussions with the Norwegian authorities in order to monitor the implementation of the Norwegian Government’s obligation to ensure compliance with the environmental guidelines as from 1 January 2002. After having been informed by the Norwegian Government about the tax measures in place, the Authority expressed the view that several of these measures could not be regarded as being in compliance with the new Environmental Guidelines. Consequently, the Authority requested the Norwegian Government to present concrete proposals of adequate implementing measures and commitments ensuring that the requirements set out in the new environmental guidelines were met from the prescribed date. The Authority stressed that, in the absence of any concrete proposals, commitments and additional information/justification as requested by the Authority, the Authority would proceed by opening the formal investigation procedure.

Based on the information submitted and the arguments presented by the Norwegian Government, the Authority has carried out a preliminary assessment of the tax measures at issue and has come to the conclusion that there are doubts regarding the compatibility of these tax measures with the EEA State aid rules. Therefore, the Authority has decided today to open a formal investigation procedure pursuant to Article 1 (2) of Protocol 3 of the Surveillance and Court Agreement.

The Authority will inform interested parties by publication of this decision in the EEA Section of the Official Journal of the European Communities and the EEA Supplement thereto. Interested parties will be invited to submit their comments within one month of the date of such publication.

For further information, please contact Mr. Amund Utne (tel.: 286.18.50).

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