Brussels, 18 December 2013
State aid: Commission consults on draft Regulation exempting more aid measures from prior notification
The European Commission is inviting comments from stakeholders on a draft revised version of the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER). The Regulation exempts unproblematic categories of aid from prior Commission scrutiny, allowing Member States to grant such aid without notifying it to the Commission. The revised draft includes new categories of exempted aid and further simplifies the assessment, reducing the administrative burden for Member States and local public authorities. It will also improve the ex-post control of aid granted under this notification exemption. In light of the feedback received, the Commission will adopt the final Regulation in the second quarter of 2014.
The draft new Regulation encourages Member States to focus their resources on measures that foster economic growth and job creation. It is a cornerstone of the state aid modernisation (SAM) initiative (see IP/12/458) as it further increases the portion of state aid that can be granted on the basis of pre-defined compatibility criteria with no need to notify the Commission. This will save time and promote "good aid" that fosters growth and other objectives of common interest without leading to undue distortions of competition in the Single Market.
The scope of the exemptions under the GBER will be significantly extended: based on a simulation on 2012 data it can be estimated that 3/4 of today's state aid measures and some 2/3 of aid amounts could be exempted. Indeed, following the adoption by the Council of a revised Enabling Regulation (see IP/13/728), the new GBER proposes additional exemption categories, in particular innovation aid for large companies, certain aid for broadband infrastructure, aid for culture including audio-visual works, aid for sport, aid to make good the damage caused by natural disasters and social aid for the transport of residents of remote regions. Moreover, the Commission proposes to increase certain notification thresholds so that higher aid amounts can be exempted from prior notification. These measures will limit the ex-ante assessment of state aid by the Commission to the largest aid measures which are most likely to create distortions in the Single Market.
This enlarged scope for exemption has to go hand in hand with appropriate safeguards to preserve competition in the Single Market, through improved ex-post controls. The Commission will systematically monitor aid granted under the GBER and carry out evaluations with Member States on the effects of the aid. Finally, aid measures will be made more transparent, by asking Member States to publish lists of the aid beneficiaries (see MEMO/13/1175).
The public consultation is available at: http://ec.europa.eu/competition/consultations/2013_consolidated_gber/index_en.html
On 8th May 2012 the Commission adopted a Communication on State Aid Modernisation (SAM), setting out the objectives of an ambitious reform package. The modernisation of state aid control has three main, closely linked objectives: foster growth in a strengthened, dynamic and competitive internal market, focus enforcement on cases with the biggest impact on the internal market, and streamlined rules and faster decisions.
State aid measures not automatically exempted from prior notification by the GBER are not necessarily incompatible with EU state aid rules. They simply have to be notified by Member States to the Commission before they are granted to their beneficiaries. The Commission then examines whether they are in line with the existing guidelines and frameworks.