E.U. to take France to court over aid for Bull

The European Commission will take France to court for not claiming back 450 million euros given in aid to Bull SA, it announced Wednesday.

Competition Commissioner Mario Monti told journalists that France’s failure to reclaim the money is “a grave violation of state aid rules.”

The Commission initially approved the 450 million euros government rescue package for Bull last November. However, at the time it added the condition that the aid must be paid back by June 17. This condition was applied because “Bull had benefited from other cash injections in the past,” Monti said.

The Competition Commissioner said he understood the difficulties companies face, but he stressed that the European Union state aid and rescue aid rules are “flexible enough and adequate” to deal with such problems. By flouting the rules and granting illegal aid, governments “put the whole E.U. project at stake,” he said.

“The current situation left us no choice but to follow the court procedure,” Monti said, adding that taking the French government to the European Court of Justice would likely take one year.

If, in the meantime, France did reclaim the money, the Commission would be pleased, Monti said.