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State Aid

PR(07)53: EFTA Surveillance Authority opens the formal investigation procedure regarding certain amendments of the Icelandic Harbour Act

12.12.2007

In a decision of today the EFTA Surveillance Authority has decided to open the formal investigation procedure with regard to certain amendments to the Icelandic Harbour Act in 2007 and in 2003.

In May 2007, the Icelandic Government notified the Authority of certain amendments in 2007 to the Icelandic Harbour Act. The Icelandic Harbour Act is a general framework law which contains provisions on what constitutes a harbour, the management and operation of harbours and funding from the so-called Harbour Improvement Fund.

The 2003 Harbour Act provides for damage compensation for certain harbour constructions. The 2007 amendment extends such damage compensation to cover ship lifts, ship hoists and dry dock constructions. The amendment entered into force in March 2007.

The Authority takes the preliminary view that this extension is not compatible with the EEA state aid provisions. The Authority can not at this stage see that such compensation can be justified on the basis of the rules on state aid to shipbuilding, on aid to compensate for natural catastrophes, or any other rules that the EEA Agreement provides for.

A further concern of the Authority results from a provision in the Harbour Act which limits the state funding to harbours owned by municipalities. Privately owned harbours cannot receive any damage compensation for their ship lifts. The Authority fails to see a justification for such discrimination.

The Authority has further examined the introduction of the Harbour Act in 2003. The Authority finds that most of the support measures which were not notified are related to infrastructure, such as the support for breakwater constructions, navigation channels, etc. The support of infrastructure which is open to all users does not constitute state aid within the meaning of the EEA Agreement. The Authority will however investigate further whether certain measures would amount to state aid, e.g. support to pilot vessels or support for quay installations, and if so whether the aid would be compatible with the EEA Agreement.

The decision to open the formal investigation procedure is without prejudice to the Authority’s final decision which might find that all measures are compatible with the state aid provisions. 

The decision will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union and third parties will be able to comment on it within a month of publication.

 

For further information, please contact:

Mr. Amund Utne
Director, Competition and State Aid Directorate
Tel.(+32)(0)2 286 18 50; or

Ms. Annette Kliemann
Deputy Director, Competition and State Aid Directorate
Tel. (+32)(0)2 286 18 80

13 December 2007




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