BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — The sale of a former Daewoo assembly plant in southern Romania to Ford Motor Co. is still on track despite an investigation by the European Union on possible state-aid violations, the head of the privatization committee said Thursday.
Sebastian Vladescu said Romania had begun talks with the European Commission on the deal, and will answer questions raised by Brussels regarding the sale by Nov. 10. He said that, according to the contract, Ford could begin activities at the Craiova-based plant in March or April.
''For now we are within the limits of the contract. None of the parties expressed an intention to get out of the contract,'' Vladescu said during a news conference.
EU regulators are investigating whether the government offered to write off the factory's debts in return for Ford's promise to retain workers and manufacture a specific number of vehicles. The EU executive has ordered Romania to halt any state subsidies to the plant at Craiova — effectively freezing the sale — until it finishes looking into how the government privatized the debt-laden factory that it took over last year.
The previous owner, South Korea's Daewoo Motor Co., went bankrupt in 2000.
EU rules prevent governments from favoring one company over rivals through the use of public money.
The Michigan-based car maker agreed last month to pay euro57 million ($77.9 million) for a 72.4 percent stake in the state-owned Automobile Craiova and has promised to invest another euro675 million ($923 million) to upgrade and expand car production there.
Regulators said they would have to check whether conditions that the Romanian government attached to the sale — making at least 200,000 cars within the first four years of privatization and keeping on all 3,900 workers — had lowered the price, leaving Ford the only bidder in the sale.
General Motors had signaled interest in bidding for Craiova earlier this year, as Romania's low-wage workers and membership in the European Union make it an attractive location for making cars.
Vladescu added that GM has not so far file a complaint about the privatization process and its result.