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Parliamentary questions
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13 June 2019
P-001421/2019(ASW)
Answer given by Ms Vestager on behalf of the European Commission
Question reference: P-001421/2019

Under the EU Treaty, the Commission is responsible to assess support measures to banks in order to minimise potential distortions to competition and costs to European taxpayers. The Commission has applied the same EU rules on state aid to banks (i.e. the Banking Communication that entered into force in August 2013) in an equal manner in 18 Member States.

In its decision of 2015, the Commission set out the grounds based on which it considered the intervention of the mandatory Italian deposit guarantee scheme (DGS) to support Banca Tercas to be state aid. Its legal reasoning was based on a detailed assessment of the specific facts and circumstances of the case at hand.

All Commission decisions are subject to judicial review by the Union courts. The Commission has decided to appeal to the European Court of Justice the General Court judgment of March 2019 concerning Banca Tercas, which annulled the 2015 Commission decision.

In particular, the Commission is seeking clarifications from the European Court of Justice on the circumstances under which a measure can be considered imputable to the State. In this respect, the General Court, in its judgment, appears to depart from the standard established by the case law. These clarifications will be useful to inform the Commission’s enforcement of state aid rules concerning privately owned entities with a public mandate.

In any event, in the case of Banca Tercas, following the 2015 Commission decision, a voluntary mechanism of a group of Italian banks decided to intervene in favour of Tercas, which did not constitute aid. Economically, that step had the same effect for Tercas and its buyer, Banca Popolare di Bari, as the prior support measures by the mandatory DGS.

Each banking case has to be assessed based on its own facts and merits. Unlike in the Tercas case, for the four small banks that Italy put into resolution in 2015, there was no buyer available. Interested banks agreed to acquire resulting bridge banks two years later after the non-performing loans had been removed. The Commission approved two extensions to facilitate the sales process.

As regards retail investors who have been the victims of mis-selling, the Commission has worked closely and constructively with Italy since 2015 to enable their compensation. In principle, the responsibility of addressing the consequences of mis-selling lies with the responsible bank itself. Where this is no longer possible because the responsible bank has left the market, Italy has worked with the Commission on pragmatic solutions to enable compensation for such retail investors by the State for social reasons.

Last updated: 14 June 2019Legal notice