Aid scheme for modernisation of public and private cultural infrastructure; aid number

Competition did not have the information requested.

Donatas Malinauskas

To: European Commission, DG Competition

Dear Sir or Madam,

Under the right of access to documents in the EU treaties, as developed in Regulation 1049/2001, I am requesting the following information.
The Republic of Lithuania, on the 12 April 2019, has notified the European Commission of an Aid scheme for modernisation of public and private cultural infrastructure; aid number SA.54126 (2019/X). The notification indicates aid scheme period of validity from 2017 to 2020.
One of the projects, implemented under the scheme and receiving the majority of financing – the creation of Stasio Eidrigevičiaus art centre in Panevezys, is also in part co-financed by the Union financing (the ERDF fund). This specific project has generated significant controversy due to the intended demolition of a historic building, which caused opposition by civil society. Multiple irregularities in project planning and implementation have also been identified, causing significant delays in project implementation.
The total value of this single project under the said scheme, as estimated in a recently discussed Panevezys Council meeting, seem to surprass 20 million Eur, out of which only 3 million EUR are seemingly to be sourced from the Union financing (see i.e. the explanatory act for a proposal for a decision of Panevezys council, decision number TSP-89, dated 9 of March, 2021, https://www.panevezys.lt/lt/el.demokrati...). Thus the total estimated project value seems to be significantly larger, than the total value of the overall scheme, as was notified by Lithuanian authorities.
As a consequece, we would kindly request to provide all and any documents on the issues related to this aid scheme and, to the extent available, the project in concern, as mentioned above.
This request in particular concerns these issues, linked to the mentioned scheme/project:
- Was the Commission notified of the intended extension of the scheme, given that due to multiple issues found in the project resulted in significant delays in implementation (i.e. the actual activities of the project are only about to start in 2021);
- Was the Commission notified of the intended enlargement of the financial envelope of the scheme, given that it seems to go significantly beyond the indicated 7 million EUR figure of national financing as indicated in the said state-aid notification;
- Was the Commission notified, or did the Commission, or any other entity, pursue any assessment of the scheme as concerns the requirements laid out in the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER), notably the requirements set out in paragraphs 6 and 7 of the article 53 of the said Regulation, as concerns the ex-ante assessment of the adequacy of state-aid measures vis-à-vis expected profit/income to be generated by the scheme/project, for the deduction of operating profit and/or a claw-back mechanism;
- Was the Commission notified, or did the Commission, or any other entity, pursue any assessment of the fit of the said project, for falling under the article 53 of the said Regulation, given that the project has been projected to carry out certain market-related activities (renting of facilities/conference organisation) that would seem to go beyond the exception granted under the article 53;
- Was the Commission notified, or did the Commission, or any other entity, pursue any assessment of the fit of the said scheme/project under the eligible activities of article 53, notably state-aid granted for a demolition of existing historical infrastructure, given that paragraphs 3 and 4 of the article 53 of the said Regulation refer primarily to activities of construction, conservation, upgrade or improvement.
Finally, we would also be grateful if the Commission could provide documentation or indicate the source of information of how such state-aid schemes should be assessed from European and National perspective and what the procedures for challenging such an assessment are.
Thank you very much in advance for providing this information,

Yours faithfully,
Donatas Malinauskas, associate „Netildom Panevėžio garso“