Bayer AG, ArcelorMittal SA and ThyssenKrupp AG are among 50 companies suing European Union regulators over a probe into billions of euros of German energy subsidies they may be forced to pay back.
Bayer’s MaterialScience unit, three of ArcelorMittal’s German units and five ThyssenKrupp units are fighting last year’s EU decision to investigate German discounts to energy-hungry companies that competition regulators said may be unfair state aid.
The European Commission “erred in law” by classing the country’s EEG energy legislation as a new, unlawfully implemented aid program, Bayer said in a filing at the EU’s General Court published today. The ThyssenKrupp businesses joined other steel companies in a joint filing that said the EU should have consulted them before adopting a decision with such serious legal effects.
Aid for industry in the biggest European economy underpins Chancellor Angela Merkel’s push to shift Germany toward renewable energy after the Fukushima reactor meltdown in Japan prompted her decision to close all nuclear power plants by 2022. Her plan would more than triple Germany’s share of renewable-energy sources to 80 percent by 2050, from about a quarter now.
Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s competition chief, hasn’t ruled out forcing Germany to recoup the energy aid, he told reporters on July 3. He said last week that he’s agreed with Germany on a revamped version of the EEG rules, voted on by the country’s lawmakers in June.
Norsk Hydro ASA has said it filed a lawsuit aimed at securing its options during a phase of changing legislation.
Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for the commission in Brussels, declined to comment.
The challenges were filed at the EU’s General Court by companies that want to cancel the EU’s move to investigate the subsidies, the Luxembourg-based tribunal’s press service said. The German government is also challenging the EU probe.
The EU’s court takes around 30 months on average to rule on a case. Its rulings can be appealed to the EU’s top court.
The cases are T-282/14 Bayer MaterialScience, T-285/14 Wirtschaftsvereinigung Stahl and Others and T-235/14 ArcelorMittal Hamburg and Others.