Brussels, 16 September 2014
State aid: Commission approves regional aid map 2014-2020 for Belgium
The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules the Belgian map for granting regional investment aid between 2014 and 2020. The map is based on the new regional aid guidelines adopted by the Commission in June 2013 (see IP/13/569). The new guidelines set out the conditions under which Member States can grant state aid to companies for regional development purposes. They aim to foster growth and greater cohesion in the Single Market.
Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia said: “The new regional aid map for Belgium allows for targeted public support to businesses to foster regional development.”
The Belgian map defines areas as eligible for regional State aid under Article 107(3)(c) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). This provision allows the granting of aid in areas which are disadvantaged relative to the national average. The map covers areas with a population of 3,314,470 which represents 29.95% of the total Belgian population. It covers the Province of Hainaut in its entirety and a number of smaller zones containing 8% of the Belgian population in the Flemish Region, 8% in the Walloon Region and 1.89% in the Brussels Region. The map will be in force between 1 July 2014 and 31 December 2020.
The regional aid map also establishes the maximum level of aid that can be granted to large enterprises for regional investment projects carried out in the assisted areas. This level has been set at 10% of the investment cost in all designated areas, with the exception of the Province of Hainaut where the maximum aid ceiling is set at 15% of the investment cost until 31.12.2017. This percentage can be increased by 10 percentage points for investments carried out by medium-sized enterprises and by 20 percentage points for investments by small enterprises.
The Belgian regional aid map approved today is very similar to the previous regional aid map (2007-2013), except for a small increase in its population allocation. The Belgian authorities opted for continuity in their assisted area map and used the additional population allocation they had received to add some municipalities to existing regional aid zones, mostly in Eeklo and the Provinces of Limburg and Liege.
The regional aid guidelines set out the rules under which Member States can grant state aid to companies to support investments in new production facilities in the less advantaged regions of Europe, or to extend or modernise existing facilities. The ultimate purpose of regional state aid is to support economic development and employment. The regional aid guidelines contain rules on the basis of which Member States can draw up regional aid maps valid throughout the guidelines' period of validity. The maps identify in which geographical areas companies can receive regional state aid and at what proportion of the eligible investment costs (aid intensity). Eligible costs are the part of the total investment costs that may be taken into account for the calculation of the aid.
Article 107(3)(c) TFEU allows regional state aid to facilitate the development of certain economic activities or of certain economic areas where it does not adversely affect trading conditions to an extent contrary to the common interest. The regional aid guidelines define these as areas of a Member State which are disadvantaged either in relation to the EU average, or in relation to the national average. The guidelines set a population coverage ceiling aimed at focusing aid at the most disadvantaged regions. The population coverage is distributed between Member States according to socioeconomic criteria which take into account regional disparities, including unemployment, at both EU and national levels. It is then for each Member State to decide in its regional map how to best use this room for manoeuvre to define more eligible areas in order to address its internal regional disparities.
The non-confidential version of today's decision will be made available under the case number SA.38577 in the State Aid Register on the competition website once any 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.