BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission opened an in-depth investigation on Friday to determine whether tax exemptions granted to Italian ports break EU state aid rules, while welcoming changes in Spain to abolish tax exemptions for its ports.
The Commission, which oversees competition policy in the 28-nation European Union, called on the two countries in January to adapt their legislation to ensure ports would pay tax in the same way as other companies from the start of 2020.
The Commission said in a statement that it was closing its investigation into Spain, but was ramping up its procedure for Italy.
EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said that ports are key infrastructure for economic growth and regional development and that competition rules reflected this, allowing EU countries to invest in ports.
"At the same time, if port operators generate profits from economic activities these should be taxed in the same way of other companies under the normal national tax laws to avoid distortions of competition," she said.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, editing by Marine Strauss)