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C 82/50 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 17. 3.

98

Answer given by Mrs Wulf-Mathies on behalf of the Commission


(11 September 1997)

The Cohesion fund annual report for 1995 was presented on 4 September 1996. Although the Cohesion fund
Regulation (EC) No 1164/94 (1) does not set a deadline for the presentation of the report, the Commission intends
to ensure that the reports become available with the smallest possible delay. However, adequate time must be
allowed for the drafting of the reports due to the many specific requirements as to their contents laid down in the
appendix to Annex 2 of the Regulation as well as the wish to be as complete as possible.

The annual report contains all the information published about individual project decisions. Data which allow
comparative study of projects are not always available.

(1) OJ L 130, 25.5.1994.

(98/C 82/92) WRITTEN QUESTION E-2282/97


by Nel van Dijk (V) to the Commission
(2 July 1997)

Subject: Distortion of competition in Western European ports

Can the Commission confirm that it has received a letter from the Stichting Natuur en Milieu exposing the setting
of land prices in the major ports of Western Europe?

Is the Commission aware that the annual rental of certain plots of land is kept low in order to have a favourable
impact on the position of the ports compared with competitor ports?

Is the Commission aware that governments endeavour to promote port activities in other ways, too; e.g. the case
of the chemical company Arco in Rotterdam which has been connected, at the government’s expense, to the
pipeline system to Antwerp?

Does the Commission agree that these aid measures result in distortion of competition and that they represent
infringement of Article 92 of the Treaty?

Answer given by Mr Kinnock on behalf of the Commission


(4 September 1997)

The Commission has indeed recently received a letter from the ‘Stichting Natuur en Milieu’ (Foundation for
nature and environment) concerning the level of land prices in certain Community ports.

Low land prices do not necessarily mean that the port operators mentioned in the letter benefit from state aid.
Instead the low price level can be due to other factors, such as the demand for the land in question, its utilisation
or ownership, or a combination of these factors, and, therefore, each case has to be examined individually in
order to establish whether there is aid involved. However, the Commission will request information from the
governments concerned on the basis of Articles 92 and 93 of the EC Treaty.

As regards state aid to ports in general, the Commission takes the view that public investment in infrastructure
does not constitute aid within the meaning of Article 92 of the EC Treaty, as long as the infrastructure remains
open to all users in the public interest on the basis of non-discriminatory access. Public financing of
superstructure on the other hand, which is intended for commercial operations of certain companies, would
normally fall under Article 92 of the EC Treaty. As far as the question of the pipeline network is concerned, the
Commission is not aware of this matter and its relation to the transport objectives of the ports involved. It will,
however, ask the Dutch authorities for information regarding the points raised by the Honourable Member.