Brussels, 9 April 2014
State aid: Commission streamlines handling of state aid complaints
The European Commission has introduced a new mandatory complaint form that will enable complainants to provide the Commission with the core elements necessary to investigate possible illegal aid in a single submission. This will make it easier for complainants to identify which information the Commission needs for its investigation and enable the Commission to act faster on suspected violations of the state aid rules. With the adoption of the form, the last building block of the reform of state aid procedures has been put in place. The streamlining of procedures is one of the key objectives of the Commission's State Aid Modernisation (SAM) agenda (see IP/12/458).
Joaquín Almunia, Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy, said: "Today we completed the most comprehensive reform of state aid procedures in the last 15 years. From now on, we will be able to more swiftly and efficiently investigate complaints that point to distortions threatening the integrity of the Single Market. This procedural reform, together with the ongoing substantive reform of state aid rules, will ensure a more effective state aid control by the Commission."
Complaints are a very useful source of information. However the Commission also receives many complaints that are not motivated by genuine competition concerns, are unsubstantiated or cannot be addressed through state aid rules. Given the Commission's duty to investigate all complaints, this can lead to a waste of the Commission's limited resources. Thus, in order to address this shortcoming, from now on information submitted to the Commission by third parties must fulfil two criteria before it can be registered as a formal complaint.
In July 2013, the EU's Council of Ministers adopted, on the basis of a proposal by the Commission, a reform of the State aid Procedural Regulation (see IP/13/728 and MEMO/12/942). This was the first substantial overhaul of the Procedural Regulation, which dates back to 1999 and sets out the rules of procedure governing the enforcement of Articles 107 and 108 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). One of the main elements of the 2013 reform was the streamlining of the handling of complaints, by clarifying the requirements to lodge a complaint and setting up a more transparent and faster procedure. Today's adoption of the mandatory complaint form was the last step to allow this reform to deploy all its effects.
The European state aid rules are part of the founding Treaties establishing the European Economic Community and the European Coal and Steel Community in 1957 and are currently enshrined in the TFEU.
Article 107 of the TFEU contains the definition of state aid and the grounds on which aid may be found compatible with the internal market, while Article 108 sets out the main principles governing the Commission's action to ensure compliance with the state aid rules.
The reform of procedures is one of the building blocks of the State Aid Modernisation (SAM) initiative launched on 8 May 2012 (see IP/12/458). The improvement of complaints handling was one of the two main objectives, as announced in the SAM Communication.