On 23 January 2018, the European Commission announced the opening of an in-depth investigation into the restructuring aid for Polish Regional Railways (Przewozy Regionalne). Poland notified the European Commission in September 2015 of 770 million Polish złoty, around 180 million euro, granted to the Polish Regional Railways as restructuring aid. The Polish Regional Railways is the largest passenger regional rail operator in Poland and the sole provider of public passenger rail transport in 7 out of 16 regions.
During its preliminary assessment, the Commission found that Polish Regional Railways had already received State support in the past. In accordance with the “one time, last time” principle, restructuring aid can be granted only one time over a period of 10 years provided that the company meets certain conditions and beneficiaries offer measures to limit distortions of competition caused by the aid.
While acknowledging the importance of the Polish domestic rail passenger sector as it provides an essential public service on a market that is not yet fully open to competition at EU level, the Commission’s in-depth investigation will examine:
- whether this past State support should be considered as restructuring aid, and consequently whether the aid granted in 2015 complies with the “one time, last time” principle;
- whether, as required by EU State aid rules, Poland has offered adequate measures to alleviate distortions of competition caused by the restructuring aid; and
- whether Polish Regional Railways sufficiently contributes to the costs of restructuring from its own resources.
Margrethe Vestager, EU Commissioner for Competition, said: “Polish Regional Railways has already benefitted from state support in the past. We need to assess whether the aid received is compatible with EU State aid rules and make sure that public support does not lead to distortions of competition in this market“.
This case has been registered as case number SA.43127.