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State Aid

State Aid investigation opened into certain commercial activities of the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre



Today, the EFTA Surveillance Authority decided to open a formal state aid investigation into the financing of the commercial activities of the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre in Reykjavik. The Authority began looking into this matter in late 2011 following a complaint by an interested party.  

“Aid to promote culture is welcome under the EEA Agreement. Iceland must, however, make sure that such aid is not in fact subsidising commercial activities, such as the hosting of conferences,” Ms Oda Helen Sletnes, president of the EFTA Surveillance Authority, said.

Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre (Harpa) was opened in 2011 and accommodates various activities such as the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, the Icelandic Opera, pop and rock concerts as well as serving as a conference centre. Other activities in Harpa such as catering, restaurants, a music shop and a furniture shop are operated by private companies who rent facilities in Harpa following public tenders. Harpa is fully owned by the Icelandic State (54%) and the City of Reykjavík (46%).The considerable annual deficit has been covered over the budgets of the State and the municipality.

The Authority has preliminarily concluded that state aid is involved in the financing of Harpa. The Authority considers that the aid, given its cultural purpose, for the construction and operation of a facility for a Symphony Orchestra and an Opera, could qualify as aid to promote culture. However, in order not to distort competition on the market for hosting conferences and other commercial events, safeguards must be put in place to ensure that there is no cross subsidisation  from the subsidised cultural activities to commercial activities. Following its preliminary assessment, the Authority has doubts whether the project in this commercial respect could be deemed compatible under Article 61 of the EEA Agreement.

In light of the foregoing considerations, the Authority decided to open the formal investigation procedure with regard to the financing of Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre. A formal investigation does not prejudge the final outcome of the Authority's assessment.

A public version of today's decision will be published on the Authority's website, normally within a month.


For further information, please contact:

Mr. Trygve Mellvang-Berg
Press & Information Officer
tel. (+32)(0)2 286 18 66
mob. (+32)(0)492 900 187

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