ANNOUNCED AS TEMPORARYNo
On 7 November 2011, the Belgian State notified the EC an extension of the Deposit Guarantee Scheme protecting shares held by individual shareholders in recognized cooperatives.
The individual shareholders of financial cooperatives are the direct beneficiaries of the cooperative guarantee scheme, but financial cooperatives - like ARCO Group - also seem to have benefited indirectly from the measure. ARCO Group was the first recognised financial cooperative to ask for protection under the cooperative guarantee scheme, and so far is still the only cooperative covered. ARCO has more than 800,000 members, of which 99% are physical persons. The average capital contribution is EUR 1,860 per person, representing an aggregate capital contribution of approximately EUR 1.5 billion. External legal entities have subscribed approximately EUR 600 million.
The EC gave the following assessment:
'The cooperative guarantee scheme has provided cooperatives which competed on the market for retail investment products with a selective advantage that was not available to other market players with similar products. Therefore, the Commission has doubts whether the measure has not distorted competition.
The Commission also observes that the cooperative guarantee scheme only covered shareholdings in recognized cooperatives, prior to 10 October 2011. Therefore, it seems plausible that distortive effects have mainly occurred in the period between the announcement in the press release of 10 October 2008 and the implementation through the Royal Decree of 10 October 2011.
The Commission also believes that the cooperative guarantee scheme has an impact on intra-EU trade. Many international providers of investment products are active on the Belgian market and the market share that ARCO or any other financial cooperative is able to preserve thanks to the measure does not become available to them.
The Commission concludes at this stage that the cooperative guarantee scheme is a measure financed by State resources, giving financial cooperatives a selective advantage, while distorting or having distorted the normal competitive process and affecting trade inside the EU. Therefore, the cooperative guarantee scheme may constitute unlawful State aid in the meaning of Article 107(1) TFEU. The Commission invites interested parties to comment on that preliminary finding.' (par. 48-51 of the letter from the EC to Belgium - Brussels, 03.04.2012 C(2012)2282 final)
A state measure in the GTA database is assessed solely in terms of the extent to which its implementation affects the extent of discrimination against foreign commercial interests. On this metric, the state aid proposed here is discriminatory.
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