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EU Seeks Power to Probe Entire Industries Over State Subsidies

European Union regulators are seeking powers to investigate government subsidies granted to entire industries under a proposed overhaul of state aid rules published today.

The so-called sector inquiries would enable regulators to examine how aid affects industries such as postal services or health care, the European Commission said in an e-mailed statement. The Brussels-based authority is seeking to revamp rules governing its role as a watchdog for state support to companies.

“The proposals will streamline our decision-making and refocus enforcement on the aid that really matters,” EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in the statement.

The commission wants to speed up inquiries and gain the right to seek more information from companies under threat of fines. It also wants the right to ignore some of the 300-plus complaints it receives over state aid every year.

Regulators are seeking to exempt from review some aid for broadband Internet and transport infrastructure, innovation, natural disaster compensation, forestry and cultural activities.

EU governments and lawmakers will examine the proposals before they can enter into force, the commission said.

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