BRUSSELS, April 3 — The European Union today announced investigations against two Chinese-owned solar panel manufacturers suspected of receiving subsidies that Brussels worries are undercutting the bloc’s firms.

The probes are under new rules that came into force in July last year which seek to prevent foreign subsidies undermining fair competition in the 27-nation EU.

“The (European) Commission will assess whether the economic operators concerned did benefit from an unfair advantage to win public contracts in the EU,” the bloc’s powerful antitrust regulator said.

Under investigation are two consortiums, one of which includes the Enevo group in Romania, and the other a German subsidiary of Chinese parent company Longi Green Energy Technology.

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Longi is the world’s biggest solar panel manufacturer.

The second consortium is made up of two subsidiaries both fully owned and controlled by Chinese state-owned firm, Shanghai Electric group.

The new rules demand firms tell the commission when their public procurement tenders in the EU are worth more than 250 million euros (US$270 million) and when the company has been granted at least four million euros in foreign financial contributions in the three previous years.

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“The commission considered it justified to open an in-depth investigation for two bidders, since there are sufficient indications that both have been granted foreign subsidies that distort the internal market,” said a statement.

The two consortiums had applied to design, construct and operate a photovoltaic park in Romania with an installed capacity of 110 megawatts, partly financed by European funds.

“The two new in-depth investigations on foreign subsidies in the solar panel sector aim to preserve Europe’s economic security and competitiveness by ensuring that companies in our single market are truly competitive and play fair,” the EU’s internal market commissioner Thierry Breton said.

The announced investigations are not the first under the Foreign Subsidies Regulation.

In February, the commission began a probe into a subsidiary of Chinese rail giant CRRC. That investigation was closed after the CRRC subsidiary withdrew this month from a tender in Bulgaria to supply electric trains. — AFP