Brussels, 23 July 2013
State aid: Commission welcomes Council adoption of revised state aid rules on block exemptions and procedures
The EU's Council of Ministers has formally adopted two European Commission proposals for revised regulations on state aid exemptions (Enabling Regulation) and procedures (Procedural Regulation). The new rules will contribute to the Commission's State Aid Modernisation (SAM) initiative. They will enter into force on the twentieth day following their publication in the EU Official Journal.
Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia said: "The adoption of these revised regulations is a major step forward in our ongoing State Aid Modernisation effort: the Commission will have better tools to investigate state aid across Member States and take faster, well-reasoned decisions. The rules will also be simpler and will give public authorities more possibilities to grant 'good' aid without prior notification to the Commission. I would like to thank Council and the European Parliament for their excellent cooperation in achieving this result."
In December 2012, the Commission submitted proposals to review two Council Regulations governing state aid control (see IP/12/1316). The Council has now formally adopted the two proposals. The main new elements are:
The regulation introduces new categories of aid that the Commission may decide to exempt from the obligation of prior notification ("block exemptions"). This will reduce red tape and allow the Commission to focus on the most important cases. New categories include aid for innovation, culture, natural disasters, sport, certain broadband infrastructure, other infrastructure, social aid for transport to remote regions and aid for certain agriculture, forestry and fisheries issues. They concern only areas where the Commission has acquired a solid case experience and that have a limited potential of distorting competition. The Commission will now be able to adopt regulations defining criteria under which aid in these categories can be exempted from notification. This will cut red tape for Member States. In particular the Commission will review the General block exemption Regulation (see IP/12/627).
The reform improves the handling of complaints, leading to a swifter, more predictable and more transparent investigation of complaints. It ensures that the Commission is provided from the start with all the information necessary to investigate complaints, and clarifies the requirements to lodge them. New tools for gathering information directly from market participants and for conducting sector inquiries will allow the Commission to obtain all necessary information to adopt well-reasoned decisions. This is expected to significantly reduce the duration of the investigation in complex cases. The codification of the cooperation with national courts will ensure a coherent application of state aid rules across Member States. Together, these elements will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of state aid control, allowing the Commission to concentrate its resources on the most important cases, where distortions of competition are most significant, and to adopt faster and better decisions.
On 8 May 2012, the Commission set out an ambitious state aid reform programme in a Communication on State aid modernisation (SAM, see IP/12/458). Since then, SAM prompted the revision of a number of interrelated instruments. In particular, the Commission adopted new Broadband Guidelines (see IP/12/1424) and Regional Aid Guidelines (see IP/13/569). The following further revisions are on-going: the General block exemption Regulation (see IP/12/627), the de minimis Regulation (see IP/13/299), Guidelines on aid for research & development & innovation (see MEX/11/1221), Guidelines on environmental aid (IP/12/872), Guidelines on risk finance aid (IP/12/789), aviation guidelines (IP/13/644) and forthcoming new guidance on the notion of state aid.