EC investigates state aid granted to Corsica ferry operators

2024-03-15T18:53:17+00:00 March 15th, 2024|Finance|

Last month, the European Commission started an in-depth investigation into French state aid granted to two ferry companies serving Corsica.

This investigation will evaluate whether the public service compensation granted to Corsica Linea and La Méridionale for serving Corsica between 2023 and 2030 complies with European Union rules on state aid, the EC said.

The opening of the investigation gives France and other interested parties the opportunity to present their comments and in no way prejudges its outcome, the commission added.

In 2022, the Corsican Assembly voted to award a maritime public service compensation to Corsica Linea and La Méridionale from 2023 to the end of 2029 for the maritime transport of passengers and goods.

Since January, both companies have shared, individually or in co-ordination, the five connections between the island ports of Ajaccio, Bastia, Propriano, L’Île-Rousse with Porto Vecchio and Marseille on the mainland.

France had notified Brussels of a compensation package of €853.6 mill for the provision of these services, the EC said in a statement.

At this stage, based on its preliminary assessment, the Commission considered that additional information is necessary to determine whether these public compensations paid to Corsica Linea and La Méridionale complied with EU rules. .

In particular, Brussels wanted to look at whether the inclusion of the transport of towed goods and road drivers in the contracts is justified by a need for a public service, taking into account the already existing commercial offer from a neighbouring port.

The European executive also said that it was looking at whether the volume of goods traffic provided for in the contracts does not exceed the public service need identified by the authorities.

Under EU rules on state aid for public service compensation, companies can be compensated for the additional cost of providing a public service, but subject to certain strictly regulated criteria.

This is to ensure that they do not receive over compensation: the idea is to guarantee optimal use of public funds while minimising distortions of competition, Brussels said.