Press distributor takes Belgian state to court over 'illegal state aid'
The press distributor PPP has taken legal action against the Belgian state and Bpost. The two parties have been summoned to appear before the Commercial Court of Brussels on Wednesday, according to business newspaper L'Echo.
This follows the Belgian government's decision to cancel the press concession for 2024-2028, a system of subsidies worth 125 million euros a year for the national distribution of newspapers and magazines.
PPP had previously emerged as the frontrunner for the newspaper concession in the opinion of the Federal Public Service (FPS) Economy. This raised concerns among several government parties as it risked leaving the current concession holder, the state-owned Bpost, without a contract.
The termination of the newspaper and magazine distribution concession is linked to a six-month transition period during which Bpost will continue to receive 75 million euros in support. PPP is targeting this support as it has not been approved by the European Commission.
PPP calls it "illegal state aid" and asks the court to stop all support under penalty of a daily fine of 494,000 euros. It had been known for some time that PPP intended to take legal action after the federal government finally decided not to award the newspaper contract at the end of last year.
Bpost confirmed on Tuesday that it had received a summons from the PPP. "We are studying it and have no comment at the moment," said a company spokesperson.
PPP CEO Michel d'Alessandro © BELGA PHOTO VIRGINIE LEFOUR