Brussels, 20 June 2012
State aid: Commission invites comments on use of General block exemption Regulation
In the context of its state aid modernisation initiative (SAM) (see IP/12/458), the European Commission has launched the review of the general block exemption regulation (GBER) which exempts certain categories of aid from the obligation of prior notification to the Commission (see IP/08/1110). The review starts with a public consultation, seeking stakeholders' views on the functioning of the regulation since its entry into force in 2008. In light of the submissions received and its own experience in applying the Regulation, the Commission will propose a revised draft regulation in 2013, with a view to contributing to the objectives of SAM. Submissions can be made until 12 September 2012.
After almost four years of applying the GBER, it is time to take stock of stakeholders' experiences and review its functioning. Moreover, the Commission will examine how the GBER can support the SAM project, designed to foster growth as well as speed up, simplify and focus the state aid review. In particular, the GBER will be reviewed with a view to best channelling public resources towards well-established objectives of common interest. Thus the GBER will play a role in enhancing growth, employment and competitiveness. Finally, the review aims at simplifying the treatment of measures with relatively low amounts of aid.
The questionnaire contains questions on general GBER policy and on the use and effectiveness of block exempted aid in different Member States. It also contains more detailed questions on the experience with the application of the common and the specific provisions of the GBER.
The review of the GBER is closely linked to the upcoming review of the guidelines on environmental aid, R&D&I, regional and risk capital aid in the context of state aid modernisation (SAM), as the GBER contains specific provisions on aid for all these purposes. In order to ensure coherence between the different initiatives, stakeholders are consulted on the basis of dedicated questionnaires.
The consultation and the questionnaire are available at:
Member States' plans to support with state funds selected companies carrying out economic activities need, in principle, to be notified to the Commission and cannot be implemented before they have not been approved. However, the Commission may exempt certain categories of support measures that do not raise competition concerns from this obligation by virtue of Council Regulation (EC) No 994/98. On that basis, the Commission adopted several exemptions.
In 2008, the adoption of a general block exemption regulation for state aid greatly reduced the administrative burden for certain public support projects with horizontal objectives, deemed to further common EU interests without affecting competition in the internal market. The GBER currently exempts under certain conditions aid in favour of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), research, development and innovation (R&D&I), environmental protection, employment, training and regional investments. It expires at the end of 2013.
On 8 May 2012 the Commission adopted a Communication on State Aid Modernisation (SAM, see IP/12/458), setting out the objectives of an ambitious reform package. In the broader context of the EU's agenda to foster growth, state aid policy should focus on facilitating well-designed aid targeted at market failures and objectives of common European interest. The Commission also aims at focusing its enforcement on cases with the biggest impact on the internal market, streamlining rules and taking faster decisions. The Communication identifies a number of actions with a view to implementing these objectives. The main elements of the reform shall be in place by the end of 2013.