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EC investigates Bulgaria state aid for Belene nuclear station

Date: 26.03.2009

The European Commission (EC) would investigate whether the 300 million leva Government cash injection into the construction of Bulgaria’s Belene nuclear power breached European Union rules on state aid.

An expert from the EC directorate-general for competition confirmed for Dnevnik that the Commission had asked Bulgaria’s finance and economy ministries for details about the distribution of the funds.

Last year, the Cabinet handed 300 million leva to the newly-created Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH), the catch-all mega structure of key state-owned energy assets, to help kick-start construction at Belene. The funds, originally earmarked in the Budget as state guarantees for Belene loans, were used hike the capital of national power grid operator NEK, which is a BEH subsidiary and will build the power station.

The Commission launched the probe after tip-offs from conservation group Greenpeace and the Green Science Policy Institute, which argued that the resources amounted to state aid of which Brussels has not been notified.

EU rules stipulate that state aid could be offered only after notification to the EC directorate-general for competition, which must be made before the Government decision. No notification had been submitted so far, Dnevnik said..

In response to an inquiry by Dnevnik, former deputy economy minister and current BEH chief executive Galina Tosheva said last year that the capital increase of a viable company was not state aid.

The European Commission could file a lawsuit against Bulgaria at the European Court of Justice if it concludes taht the aid is unlawful.

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