EU Court of Justice rules against bpost's €300m state aid
Belgium’s bpost has lost a long-running legal battle that could see it forced to hand back some or all of a EUR 300m injection of state aid from the Belgian government. Europe’s highest court threw out bpost’s appeal against a 2009 court ruling that blocked the state support.
The case stemmed from a legal challenge made by Deutsche Post back in 2003 after the EU Commission gave the green light for EUR 297.5m in assistance to be provided to bpost.
The Commission had decided back in 2003 that the support for bpost was not technically state aid, as it involved exemptions from corporate taxes during a time when bpost made a loss, so would not have paid taxes, as well as use of state-owned buildings and state guarantees for corporate loans in which state resources were not transferred to bpost.
The EU Court of Justice said today that the EU Commission should have asked for more information about certain aspects of bpost’s support, for example with bpost’s use of state buildings.
The EU Commission has been investigating the bpost issue since the 2009 ruling, and bpost said today that this investigation will continue.
The Belgian Post said today’s verdict from the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg only related to “procedural deficiencies” in how the Commission approved the state aid back in 2003.
The company said in a statement to the press that the ruling did not refer to the “merits of the case, nor on whether the capital increase, or a part thereof, should be refunded”.
As the Commission continues its investigation into the matter, bpost insisted it still had “strong legal and economic arguments” for all outstanding questions.
bpost stated: “The European Commission will continue its ongoing investigation into the possible illsgal state aid. bpost will be fully cooperating with the Commission and will provide all requested information or explanation.”
Deutsche Post told media agency Bloomberg today that it was pleased its legal position had been confirmed, and hoped the EU Commission would now take account of the judgement when looking at other instances of State Aid.