The European Commission announced in a press release on Wednesday that it has opened an investigation regarding a possible state aid given by Romanian authorities to Mittal Steel Roman factory. The sum supposedly amounts to 26 million euro.

EC experts declare they want to investigate whether Romanian authorities have breached the EU treaty regarding state subsidies in the privatization process of the factory. Pipe producer Mittal Roman, formerly named Petrotub, was taken-over by Mittal Steel, the biggest world steel producer, four years ago.

Prior to the privatization, the Petrotub company was fully owned by the Romanian state. When it was sold to Mittal Steel in 2003, Petrotub's debts to the state amounted to 25.52 million euro.

The Romanian state is believed to have accepted to drop claims on the debt in the privatization process. This is seen as a potential act of state assistance by EU officials.

But Romanian authorities argue that the privatization, even when accompanied by debt exemption, was more advantageous to the liquidation of the company and as long as the sale proved the best solution one cannot speak of state aid.