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Brussels, 13th September 2006

State aid: Commission approves regional aid maps 2007-2013 for a first group of Member States

The European Commission has approved under EC Treaty state aid rules the regional aid maps covering the period 2007-2013 for Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. These are the first regional aid maps approved by the Commission under the new Regional Aid Guidelines (see IP/05/1653 and MEMO/05/491).These decisions form part of a wider exercise to review regional aid systems in all Member States. When it adopted the Regional Aid Guidelines in December 2005, the Commission emphasised its objective to re-focus regional aid on the most deprived regions of the enlarged Union, while allowing for the need to improve competitiveness and to provide for a smooth transition.

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: “The approved regional aid maps support our cohesion objectives and contribute to the State Aid Action Plan’s focus on less and better targeted aid. I am delighted that the decisions were taken well in time to permit those seven Member States a smooth transition from their current regional aid system towards their regional development strategies for 2007-2013. I invite the 10 Member States which have not yet notified their regional aid map to do this without delay. From my side, I will do my utmost to ensure that the decisions on the remaining regional aid maps will be taken before the end of 2006.”

A regional aid map defines the regions of a Member State eligible for national regional investment aid for large enterprises under EC Treaty state aid rules and establishes the maximum permitted levels of such aid in the eligible regions. The adoption of the regional aid map for the Member State concerned is a pre-condition to ensure the continuity of the regional policy and Structural Fund programmes post 2006, as all current maps will expire on 31/12/2006. If no new regional aid map is approved by 1.1.2007, the Member State in question can not grant any regional aid within its territory until such a map has been approved by the Commission.

Article 87(3)(a) of the EC-Treaty foresees the possibility to grant regional state aid to promote the economic development of areas where the standard of living is abnormally low or where there is serious underemployment. The Regional Aid Guidelines, revised in December 2005, define this type of regions as having a GDP below 75% of the Community average, which is the case for the majority of the regions approved in these maps. In line with the principles set out in the new Regional Aid Guidelines the entire territory of six of these Member States (Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Poland and Slovenia) will continue to be eligible for regional investment aid, although the maximum aid intensities are in general reduced. In the case of Slovakia, regional investment aid for the Bratislava region will be phased out by the end of 2008, although the remainder of the country remains eligible for relatively high rates of aid.

Information on the approved regional aid maps will soon be published in the EU’s Official Journal.

A non official version of the individual decisions will be available shortly for information purposes in the working language on the website of DG Competition.

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