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Brussels, 19 January 2009

State aid: Commission authorises France to introduce temporary aid scheme for businesses up to a maximum of €500 000

The European Commission has authorised, under EC Treaty state aid rules, the first in a series of aid measures for businesses adopted by France to tackle the current economic crisis. The scheme will allow state, regional or local authorities and certain public bodies to grant aid of up to €500 000 in 2009 and 2010 to businesses which find themselves in difficulty as a result of the current economic crisis or are experiencing financing problems because of the credit squeeze.

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said that the measure would give a shot in the arm to businesses affected by the current economic situation without leading to undue distortions of competition. The effectiveness of the French authorities’ response had enabled the Commission to come to a decision very quickly.

The scheme meets the conditions imposed by the Commission’s temporary framework giving Member States additional possibilities for providing businesses with improved access to financing during the economic and financial crisis (see IP/08/1993). It is therefore, compatible with Article 87(3)(b) of the EC Treaty, which permits aid intended to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State.

The scheme is based on the provisions of the temporary framework that deal with compatible aid of a limited amount. In particular, the maximum amount of aid does not exceed €500 000 per company and the scheme applies only to businesses which were not in difficulty on 1 July 2008 or which were not in difficulty then but became so subsequently as a result of the economic crisis.

This scheme is the first measure authorised for France under the new temporary framework for state aid adopted in principle by the Commission on 17 December 2008. France is the second country, after Germany (see IP/08/2063), to avail itself of this new temporary framework.

The decision will be made available under case number N 7/2009 in the State Aid Register on the DG Competition website once all the confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State aid Weekly e-News.

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