The European Commission has opened an investigation into public funding for the Øresund fixed rail-road link between Denmark and Sweden.
Following the annulment by the EU General Court of the Commission’s previous decision to approve state support for the Øresund link, a new investigation has been opened into whether the funding allocated to the project is in line with the EU’s state aid restrictions. The Øresund link connects Malmö in Sweden to Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital city, and the nearby Danish island of Amager; and consists of a 16-kilometre bridge – the longest in Europe – a manmade island and a tunnel for road and rail traffic. It is funded primarily by tolls collected along the bridge and is owned by the Øresundsbro Konsortiet, an intergovernmental consortium of Danish and Swedish representatives.
Construction and maintenance of the Øresund link, which began in 1995 and was completed in 2000, were financed partially by loans guaranteed by the Swedish and Danish governments; and the Øresundsbro Konsortiet benefits further from specialised tax arrangements in Denmark. The state guarantees and tax break were found to be legitimate under state aid rules by the European Commission in 2014; however, an appeal of the Commission’s decision on procedural grounds by Danish ferry operator Scandlines was partially successful, leading the General Court to conclude that the Commission should have opened a full formal investigation into the state aid implications of Øresund funding.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “The Øresund link has been instrumental in the cross-border integration of two dynamic regions and brought significant benefits to citizens and businesses on both shores and beyond. The Commission already approved State aid for the building and operating of the link in 2014 but the Court annulled this decision, finding that the Commission should have opened an in-depth investigation. Today’s opening of such an investigation is an invitation for all stakeholders to provide their input, which will allow the Commission to adopt a new, well-informed final decision”.