Update: EC investigates planned transfer of public land to private investors in Bucharest
The update adds the position of Iulius Company, at the end of this article.
The European Commission (EC) has requested from the Romanian authorities information about the draft law that transfers 42 hectares of land in northern Bucharest from the state to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Romania (CCIR), sources familiar with the matter told Libertatea daily.
The Parliament approved the free transfer of this land, which has an estimated market value of EUR 300 million.
Save Romania Union (USR) and UDMR have referred this bill to the Constitutional Court, which will discuss the matter in its November 11 meeting.
USR accused the project of being a "cross-party real estate fraud," as the land's value is estimated at EUR 300-400 million.
The bill was initiated by the Popular Movement Party (PMP) of former president Traian Basescu, and supported by the main opposition party - Social Democratic Party (PSD), and by the ruling party - National Liberal Party (PNL).
The European Commission initiated investigations into the case in response to a petition filed by the South African real estate investor NEPI Rockastle, which accuses that the normative act favors the Iulius group, controlled by local businessman Iulian Dascalu, the sources said.
Iulius group and Romania's Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIR) have already announced a partnership for developing a mixed real estate project worth EUR 2.87 bln on this land.
Meanwhile, NEPI Rockcastle has expressed interest in participating in a public tender for selecting the developer of this real estate project.
NEPI Rockcastle issued a statement on Monday, November 9, in which it confirmed that it had notified the EC.
"We are confident that the competent national and European institutions will support fair competition between investors and a healthy business environment," NEPI representatives said.
Update: Iulius Group issued a statement on Tuesday, November 10, saying that it has no capacity or involvement in the legislative endeavor that NEPI Rockcastle referred to the EC.
"The amendment of the Law on the Chambers of Commerce 335/2007, adopted by the Romanian Parliament on September 3, 2020, vests the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Romania (CCIR) with the ownership right over the land on which the Romexpo Exhibition Center is currently located, for subsequent development purposes [...] the land does not get transferred into the ownership of IULIUS and IULIUS Group will pay a superficies tax for using the land, to the market rate and in accordance with the contractual provisions to be agreed upon in the partnership with CCIR, once the legal status of the land shall be defined," Iulius Group representatives said.
"In this context, inducing the idea of IULIUS Group obtaining an alleged state aid is overtly erroneous and potentially misinforming the public opinion. We have full confidence in the Romanian courts and in the European authorities, as well as in their capacity for objective and unswayable analysis," the group's representatives added.
The CE's analysis is in its infancy, and it is not clear how long it will last or what its purpose will be. In the worst case, the Commission can initiate an infringement procedure against Romania, after which it can refer the matter to the European Court of Justice.
(Photo: Gabriela Firea Facebook Page)