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Parliamentary questions
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13 May 2015
Answer given by Ms Vestager on behalf of the Commission
Question reference: E-003938/2015

Article 345 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) enshrines the principle of neutrality of the Treaties as regards the system of property ownership in the Member States. It follows that the Treaties are also neutral as regards public or private ownership of undertakings.

In light of this, EC law does not prohibit the nationalisation of undertakings. It has to be pointed out, however, that a Member State nationalising a private undertaking has to act like a private market economy operator as regards both the purchase price and the management of the nationalised undertaking. Otherwise, State aid rules (Articles 107 and 108 TFEU) would apply.

The same is true as regards privatisation of public undertakings. If a Member State privatising a public undertaking does not act like a private market economy operator when setting the price, State aid rules would apply. A private market economy operator would, in general, be assumed to try to achieve the highest price possible for the undertaking in question. Market conditions can in general be assumed if an undertaking is privatised through the sale of shares on the stock exchange, for example, or if an open, transparent and unconditional tender has taken place and the undertaking has been sold to the highest bidder. For further details, the Commission would like to refer the Honourable Member to the 23rd Competition Policy report of 1993 as well as the Guidance paper on state aid compliant financing, restructuring and privatisation of state-owned enterprises(1).


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