”When the EU Commission this July surprisingly pressed through an approval of the Fehmarn project’s financing model, it happened without the opening of a formal procedure and without involving or warning the complainants – a total of 5 private and public companies – including Scandlines. We are left with no other option than requesting that the Court annuls the decision and in that way has the Commission try the case again and thus have a proper legal treatment and assessment of the case,” said Søren Poulsgaard Jensen, CEO of Scandlines.
Scandlines’ appeal to the European Court of Justice is founded on, among other things, the fact that the Commission has approved at least 55 years of state aid, which is a period long enough to effectively ensure unlimited state aid. It is also founded on the fact that the Commission along with the Danish state seemingly chooses different facts depending on the purpose. It is thus striking that the EU Commission on one hand bases the granting of a payback time of 55 years on preconditions of continued ferry operations, and on the other hand applies prognoses without ferry operations when the socio-economic value is to be calculated to be high enough to ensure that approval can be granted.
”The process has been rather absurd: The EU Commission and the Competition Commissioner have either been sleeping on the job or chosen to turn the blind eye as such an important decision was rushed through without relating to such decisive discrepancies in the foundation for decision,” said Søren Poulsgaard.
Furthermore, the EU Commission conveniently omitted concluding on the question about state aid. The combination of an approval of 55 years state aid and the uncertainty about how this could be abused to drive ordinary private actors out of the market worries Scandlines, which wishes for a firm and clear framework for the state aid to efficiently and clearly stem potential abuse.
”When the connection has been constructed, and it is subsequently realized that the amount of traffic is much lower than assumed, and that competitors do not simply disappear, you can chose to dump prices and squeeze private companies out of the market with state aid in the back pocket. That is an advantage provided very unilaterally by state aid, and that is quite simply competition for taxpayers’ money,” said Søren Poulsgaard Jensen. He emphasizes the need for a clear answer and a well-defined limitation of the aid’s purpose and scope. At least a limit corresponding to the payback time that Danish politicians worry about, and which is much shorter than 55 years, which is perceived by everyone as a time horizon that is synonymous with the project’s certain bankruptcy due to excessive interest rates after which taxpayers would have to pick up the bill.
”We have ample legal and commercial reasons for requesting the European Court of Justice to impartially assess the case. We simply wish that the decision is annulled to ensure that the case can be returned to the EU Commission with an instruction to have a proper legal treatment with a formal procedure and a clear answer to the state aid question, which actually levels the playing field for competing companies,” said Søren Poulsgaard Jensen.