České dráhy has received, this day, from the European Commission its Statement of Objections in the so-called “Falcon” investigation case. This case has been investigated for about ten years and concerns the alleged abuse of a predominant position on the part of České dráhy on the Praha – Ostrava line.
The Statement of Objections is not a decision which would bindingly state that ČD breached a regulation and is obliged to pay a penalty. It is only an indication in which the European Commission announces to České dráhy in what it perceives the infringement of competition rules, and whether and why it intends to punish such infringement with a penalty. Likewise, the Statement of Objections does not have, at the moment, any influence on the ongoing judicial litigations with competing carriers. It does not mean that ČD would have, on the basis of this Statement of Objections, to change its position before Czech courts in any manner, or an indication that it could not succeed in those litigations.
"The entire matter has been running for about 10 years. This is a legacy which the current management “inherited” after their predecessors and now we have to cope therewith in the best possible way. The Statement of Objections is a procedural step and we will provide our opinion thereon after getting familiar with the Statement. It is not a decision in the case, the entire matter may end before court, but we are not yet in such phase. We will cooperate and communicate with the European Commission on particular issues. Our aim is to minimize any adverse impacts on ČD," stated Václav Nebeský, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Director General of ČD, a.s.
The step taken by the European Commission is in contradiction with the existing evaluation of the ČD position which has been considered as very strong since the beginning. ČD is not aware of the fact that there would be any misconduct on its part, and it submitted a lot of evidence to the Commission to confirm this fact. The Statement of Objections is, in the existing proceedings, the first moment when ČD is informed in what its alleged misconduct is perceived. The Statement of Objections is a comprehensive and complex document and ČD must at first get thoroughly familiar with it, and only then can it decide about further steps. In any case, ČD presupposes correct cooperation and negotiations with the European Commission.
The ČD management takes this Statement of Objections very seriously and analysis the entire case thoroughly. ČD will provide its opinion on the Statement of Objections very soon in a first step, and then it will use all procedural instruments to prove that there has not been any infringement of legal regulations on its part.
Pavel Kysilka, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of ČD, adds to the Commission’s document as follows: "The Statement of Objections is coming in very difficult times when ČD suffered losses in a magnitude of billions of Czech crowns in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. Additional expenses in the form of a multimillion penalty would be very hard for ČD. Now, the Board of Directors of ČD must analyse the Commission’s statement without any delay and adopt a clear procedural strategy of how to eliminate possible damage. Our aim is to protect ČD from adverse impacts of the case which has been placing a heavy strain on the company for already 10 years."