EU regulators order Italy to recover illegal disaster state aid

BRUSSELS - The European Commission ordered Italy on Friday to recover illegal state aid granted to companies which, unlike other beneficiaries, had not suffered damage from natural disasters.

The move came after a three-year investigation into Italian measures that reduced taxes and social security contributions for companies in six disaster-hit areas between 1990 and 2009.

Italian authorities implemented the measures between 2002 and 2011.

The Commission said some companies benefited unfairly from the aid because the Italian measures did not require them to show they had suffered any damage at all or to prove the magnitude of their damage.

"Under the Commission's decision, incompatible state aid paid out under the investigated measures only needs to be recovered by the Italian authorities if beneficiaries could not have suffered any damage at all because they had no economic activity in the area," the EU regulator said.

"Recovery is only required if the amount of incompatible state aid received by the company is high enough to be able to distort competition, and if it is not covered by any other approved or exempted state aid measure."