The European Commission announced on December 17 that it was taking action against three Member States for national provisions that impede the free movement of capital provided for in the EU Treaty:

Belgium will receive reasoned opinions - the second step in this type of infringement proceedings - challenging royal Decrees which conferred special rights on state shareholdings in the energy companies Distrigaz and SNTC. At issue are limitations the Belgian State is thus able to impose on increases in stakes in the companies, and on the election of board members. Any such special powers that Member States impose in the national interest must be proportional and objective, and Belgium's are not, the Commission alleges. If no satisfactory response is made in two months, the Commission could take Belgium to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

Italy is to be taken to the Court of Justice because of the special powers that the Treasury Minister has been given over companies in the defence and public utilities sectors (such...

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