Following an in-depth investigation, the
The Commission's investigation revealed that the public guarantee makes the financial cooperatives that benefit from it more attractive for investors as compared to their competitors, who have to operate without such a guarantee. The scheme thus confers a selective advantage to its beneficiaries and therefore constitutes state aid.
The Commission then proceeded to assess whether the aid could be found compatible with EU rules that allow aid measures to further certain objectives of common interest, provided they do not unduly distort competition in the Single Market.
The Belgian authorities contend that individual shareholders of financial cooperatives are in a situation similar to bank depositors. However, the Belgian legal framework for cooperative companies and the articles of association of the companies concerned make it clear that financial cooperatives are limited liability companies and unlimited liability companies. Contributions to their capital are made in the form of equity investments and are subject to equity risk. There would be no basis for considering such a measure compatible with EU rules on state aid.
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