Brussels, 9 April 2014
State aid: Commission approves regional aid map 2014-2020 for Finland
The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules Finland's map for granting regional development 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), which set out the conditions under which Member States can grant state aid to businesses for regional development purposes. The guidelines aim to foster growth and greater cohesion in the Single Market.
Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia said: “Finland's new regional aid map allows national and local authorities to support investment where there is a need for it, in particular in the sparsely populated areas and areas undergoing a major structural change. This will contribute to the development of these areas and support EU cohesion policy objectives.”
A regional aid map defines the regions of a Member State eligible for national regional investment aid under EU state aid rules and establishes the maximum aid levels (so-called "aid intensities") for companies in the eligible regions. Under the guidelines, Member States can make certain areas (such as sparsely populated areas or other areas were award of regional aid may be justified) eligible for aid to tackle their own regional disparities, provided that they comply with an overall population coverage ceiling.
The new map will be in force between 1 July 2014 and 31 December 2020. It covers sparsely populated areas accounting for 24.18% of Finland's population. Finland has also designated the Salo sub-region as an area undergoing a major structural change with a total population of 64,087 or 1.181% of the national population. As Finland was entitled to a population ceiling of 1.85% under this latter category, this leaves a reserve of 0.669% for designating other areas in need.
The maximum level of aid that can be granted to investment projects carried out by large companies is 15% of total investment costs in sparsely populated areas and 10% in the Salo subregion. For investments carried out by SMEs, these percentages can be increased.
While the population coverage is lower than in the previous aid map (by around seven percentage points), the overall aid intensities have remained the same, with the Salo sub-region being designated for the first time. This is in line with the objectives of the new regional aid guidelines, which aim at focusing support on the most disadvantaged regions of Europe.
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, or to extend or modernise existing facilities, in the less advantaged regions of Europe. The ultimate purpose of regional state aid is to support economic development and employment. The regional guidelines contain rules on the basis of which Member States can draw up their regional aid maps for the guidelines' period of validity (i.e. 2014-2020). 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. Moreover, the regional aid guidelines identify sparsely populated areas as eligible for this type of aid. Sparsely populated areas are defined as areas with less than 8 inhabitants per km² or less than or 12.5 inhabitants per km², depending on their location. In such areas higher levels of aid can be granted to investment by large enterprises (15% instead of 10% in other areas eligible under this provision). Transport aid may also be granted in sparsely populated areas, unlike in other 107(3)(c) areas. In addition, the regional aid guidelines allow to make areas facing socioeconomic problems eligible for support under 107(3)(c) up to a certain population coverage. Should a Member State not make full use of the population coverage for such areas, it is possible to retain the difference as a population reserve. The population reserve thus established may be used for adding new areas in this category in the future.
The non-confidential version of today's decision will be made available under the case number SA.38359 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.