07 July 15

EU approves €270 million in aid for Calais

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The European Commission
has found that public funding of €270 million to build a new cross-Channel terminal in the Port of Calais is in line with EU state aid rules.

The new infrastructure furthers EU transport policy objectives without unduly distorting competition in the internal market. The EU Commissioner for Competiton, Ms Margrethe Vestager, welcomed the decision: “This is a good example of how Member States can boost infrastructure investments without damaging competition in the Single Market. This French project has attracted private funding in order to complete a project which could not have been started without this cooperation. Furthermore, this is a trans-European project that will enable a better flow of cross-Channel links and stronger trade exchanges between the UK, Ireland and mainland Europe.”

In April 2015, the French authorities had indicated that they intended to finance a project to expand the Port of Calais, with the funding coming from the French State and local authorities in Pas-de-Calais and, subject to approval, the European Union through the Connecting Europe Facility. The project to expand the Port of Calais includes, in particular, the building of a new terminal. The investment will allow better operation of cross-Channel sea transport services.

France carried out an in-depth financial analysis showing that the terminal operator’s income from the use of the infrastructure would be insufficient to cover the investment costs over a period of 50 years. Therefore, the project could not have been carried out without public funding. The Commission found that the public funding was limited to the minimum necessary to make the investment possible.

Furthermore, the distortion of competition will be limited given the traffic growth forecasts and the fact that there are other ports and the Eurotunnel which will continue to exert competitive pressure on the Port of Calais. The Commission has therefore concluded that the positive effects of the project will clearly outweigh any potential distortions of competition brought about by the aid. The project thus complies with Article 107(3)(c) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which allows State aid for the development of certain economic activities, provided that it does not unduly affect trade and competition in the Single Market.

The Port of Calais, on the strait linking the North Sea to the Channel, is active in the transport of goods (the port is ranked first in mainland Europe for car traffic) and passengers (for which the port is ranked first in France and second in Europe). The public funding of infrastructure investment projects is subject to EU state aid rules when the infrastructure is to be operated commercially (see judgment of the EU General Court of March 2011 in Joined Cases T-443/08 and T-455/08).

Therefore, such projects must be notified to the Commission for prior approval. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.39688 in the State Aid Register on the DG Competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. The State Aid Weekly e-News lists new publications of State aid decisions on the internet and in the EU Official Journal.