Brussels, 13 July 2012
State aid: Commission consults on reform of procedures
In the context of the State Aid Modernisation (SAM) initiative, the European Commission is inviting comments on the application of procedural rules in state aid investigations. The Commission proposes to clarify and simplify the current regime, laid down in a Council Regulation, in particular with regard to the handling of complaints and the collection of market information.
These changes should allow the Commission to focus its control on state aid cases that could give rise to the most significant distortions of competition in the Internal Market. Replies to the public consultation should be submitted by 5 October 2012. In light of the comments received, the Commission will propose a revised regulation by December 2012 that will then be submitted to the EU Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers.
The state aid Procedural Regulation lays down detailed rules of procedure for state aid investigations. Its revision is one of the building blocks of the Commission's state aid modernisation package (SAM) adopted in May 2012 (see IP/12/458). SAM identified two priority areas for the modernisation of state aid procedures, namely the handling of complaints and the collection of market information. The consultation therefore mainly aims at collecting the views of stakeholders on these two aspects.
Based on its experience in applying these rules and the conclusions drawn from the application of the state aid Best Practices Code, the Commission considers it should be able to set priorities for handling complaints, in order to focus its work on cases with a potentially high impact on competition and trade in the Internal Market. To effectively investigate such cases, the Commission also needs efficient tools to obtain the necessary information from market participants in good time, so as to deliver decisions within business-relevant timelines. The changes envisaged would also allow the Commission to launch more investigations on its own initiative in areas where significant distortions of competition threaten to hamper the functioning of the Internal Market. Moreover, they would enable the Commission to better ascertain how public support measures affect the markets concerned, thus accelerating the decision-making process.
Comments should be sent by 5 October 2012 to: Stateaidgreffe@ec.europa.eu
The questionnaire and additional information are available at the consultation page.
The EU's state aid rules were first introduced in the Treaties establishing the European Economic Community and the European Coal and Steel Community in 1957 and are currently enshrined in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). Article 107 of the TFEU contains the definition of state aid and the grounds on which aid may be considered to be compatible with the internal market, while Article 108 sets out the main procedural principles governing the Commission's action to ensure Member States' compliance with the substantive state aid rules.
In 1999, the Council adopted the state aid Procedural Regulation, setting out in more details the rules of procedure governing the enforcement of Articles 107 and 108 TFEU. These rules have been applied until today without any significant modifications. The 2009 state aid Best Practices Code has not created new legal provisions but specifies how state aid procedures should be carried out in practice, in particular as regards their duration, transparency and predictability.
More than 13 years after its entry into force, a modernisation of the procedural regulation is needed in order to improve the quality of the Commission’s state aid control in a European Union of now 27 Member States, 500 million inhabitants, and 23 official languages.