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C 374 E/176 Official Journal of the European Communities EN 28.12.


(2000/C 374 E/207) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0871/00
by Alejandro Agag Longo (PPE-DE) to the Commission

(22 March 2000)

Subject: Setting up businesses

According to OECD figures, the number of statutory documents needed to set up a business in the
Member States of the EU varies between two or three in Denmark and 28 in Greece.

Does the Commission consider that these differences between the Member States encourage the setting up
of new businesses, especially by young people? Does the Commission intend to take any practical steps to
remedy this evident distortion of the single market?

Answer given by Mr Liikanen on behalf of the Commission

(26 April 2000)

The Commission shares entirely the concern of the Honourable Member over the regulatory burdens
involved in setting up a business that continue to exist in a number of Member States, and regards the
simplification of the formalities involved in business start-up as a priority.

That is why, while recognising that this is primarily a matter for national governments, the Commission
has encouraged Member States, in its BEST report (1), to address this problem and has supported their
efforts to find simpler and better solutions.

The BEST report calls on Member States to facilitate the creation of enterprises. Under the follow-up (2) to
this report, the Commission is monitoring and evaluating progress made by the Member States, and is also
sharing information about good practices. The Commission will report on the follow-up later this year.

Further, under its concerted actions (3), the Commission assists Member States in exchanging good
practices. A good example is the French ‘Centres de formalités d’entreprises’, which have greatly simplified
procedures for start-ups. Moreover, there is encouraging evidence of Member States learning from each
other’s experience. For example, the Portuguese ‘Centro de Formalidades das Empresas’ network, which has
reduced normal start-up times for businesses from around six months to around fifteen days, exploited the
French experience.

Benchmarking is an important tool to show differences and progress, and the Commission will continue
benchmarking between Member States in the field of entrepreneurship and innovation.

(1) Report of the Business Environment Simplification Task Force. This report can be found on Internet: http://
(2) Action plan to promote entrepreneurship and competitiveness. This can be found on Internet:
(3) Outlined in the recent report to the Council and Parliament on concerted actions, adopted by the Commission on
9 November 1999, COM(1999) 569 final.

(2000/C 374 E/208) WRITTEN QUESTION P-0877/00
by Karin Riis-Jørgensen (ELDR) to the Commission

(16 March 2000)

Subject: Unlawful State subsidy to the DSB

Passenger transport between Copenhagen and Æro is provided by two carriers, one a privately owned bus
company and the other a rail link operated by the DSB (Danish Railways).
28.12.2000 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 374 E/177

Since 1 January 1999 the Danish State has purchased public transport services from the DSB under a
contract according to which the State pays a gross subsidy of DKR 2,9 billion. When the Inland Revenue
Department decided in 1999 that VAT should be charged on the Great Belt Bridge tolls, the subsidy paid
to the DSB was increased on the grounds that:

as the DSB had to pay VAT on permanent railway charges in 1999, the DSB net subsidy would be
increased by DKR 192,5 million.

In other words, the DSB is paying VAT on the bridge tolls, but having it refunded via the State contract.
The private bus company does not receive any kind of public subsidy and pays VAT which is not

Does the Commission consider this form of VAT refund to the DSB as compatible with the Community’s
rules on competition and State subsidies?

Answer given by Mrs de Palacio on behalf of the Commission

(25 April 2000)

The Commission would inform the Honourable Member that it has already received information
concerning the issue she raises and is currently examining the arrangement in question. The Commission
has therefore asked the Danish authorities to provide the Commission with all relevant information, in
order to allow it to make an assessment of the arrangement under applicable state aid rules.

(2000/C 374 E/209) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0881/00
by Harlem Désir (PSE) to the Commission

(22 March 2000)

Subject: Redundancy plan in the wake of the ABB-Alstom group merger

In November 1999 the Commission authorised the merger of the ABB and Alstom groups, which created
the world’s largest energy producer  ABB-Alstom Power. Today, as feared by the employees, the group
has announced that it is to shed 10 000 jobs, including 5 460 in Europe, primarily in France and Germany.

The Commission bears great responsibility for this. When it authorised the ABB-Alstom merger, it had a
duty to take all necessary steps to safeguard jobs and to monitor compliance with Directive 94/45/EC (1)
on informing and consulting workers in undertakings and in Community-scale groups of undertakings. In
its resolution of 17 February 2000, Parliament reminded the Commission of this requirement, but it was
completely disregarded and the group totally failed to comply with the obligation to inform workers in the
event of restructuring.

Did the group’s senior executives inform the Commission of their redundancy plan when they applied for
authorisation to merge and, if so, why did the Commission approve such a plan? If they concealed the
plan, which had undoubtedly already been drawn up in November 1999, does the Commission not have
the right to take action against the group for having misrepresented the implications of the merger for the

Whatever the case, what measures does the Commission intend to take in response to this breach of
Community law and to persuade the group to shelve its plan?

(1) OJ L 254, 30.9.1994, p. 64.