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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 21 May 2014

State aid: Commission exempts more aid measures from prior notification

As another milestone of its state aid modernisation (SAM) initiative, the European Commission has considerably extended the scope of exemptions from prior notification of state aid granted to companies. Under the revised General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER), Member States will be able to grant more aid measures and higher amounts without having to notify them to the Commission for prior authorisation, because they are less likely to lead to undue distortions of competition in the Single Market. This will significantly reduce the administrative burden for Member States and local authorities and increase legal certainty for aid beneficiaries. The Regulation will enter into force on 1 July 2014. See also MEMO/14/369.

Commission Vice-President, in charge of competition policy, Joaquín Almunia, said: "These new rules will cut red tape for Member States and encourage them to put in place smart aid measures which contribute to economic growth and do not harm fair competition. If Member States make full use of the possibilities for granting aid under the extended exemptions from notification, most aid measures could be immediately implemented, without prior approval from the Commission."

As a rule, except for aid of a very low amount, state aid measures granted by Member States to undertakings must be notified to the European Commission for prior approval. However, the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER) exempts aid measures from prior notification if certain conditions are respected. The previous Regulation, adopted in 2008, covers approximately 60% of all aid measures and slightly more than 30% of the aid amounts granted each year in the EU. Based on 2012 data, the Commission estimates that about 3/4 of today's state aid measures and some 2/3 of aid amounts will be exempted under the revised GBER. Even more aid measures could be exempted if Member States make smart use of the possibilities offered by the Regulation, designing their aid schemes so that they meet the conditions required. Aid measures which are not covered by the GBER will continue to be assessed by the Commission under the relevant state aid guidelines.

In line with the objectives of State Aid Modernisation (SAM) (see IP/12/458), the new Regulation encourages "good aid" which stimulates economic growth, job creation and other objectives of common interest. It also reduces the administrative burden for Member State and allows the faster deployment of aid for companies. Finally, it enables the Commission to concentrate its scrutiny on the aid measures which are most likely to distort competition in the Single Market, while also conducting improved ex post monitoring of measures benefitting from the exemption.

The key improvements brought by the revised GBER are the following:

  • Greater scope through increased thresholds: The exemption thresholds for many measures that were already covered by the existing GBER have been raised, allowing Member States to grant higher aid amounts without prior notification. For some categories of aid, the scope has also been increased through more flexible eligibility conditions, more favourable maximum aid intensities and higher aid amounts.

  • Greater scope through additional categories of aid: The adoption of a revised Enabling Regulation (see IP/13/728) allowed the Commission to exempt new categories, such as aid for local, broadband, research and energy infrastructures, innovation clusters, regional urban development funds, culture and heritage conservation, audio-visual works, sports and recreational infrastructures and aid to make good damage caused by certain natural disasters.

  • Simplification: taking on board feedback from the public consultations and in accordance with the objectives of the SAM, the conditions that aid measures should meet to benefit from the exemption have been significantly clarified and simplified.

The significantly enlarged scope of the exemptions from prior notification goes hand in hand with appropriate safeguards to preserve competition in the Single Market, through improved ex-post controls. The Commission will improve its monitoring of the aid granted under the GBER and will request Member States to carry out evaluations on the effects of some large aid schemes in order to better assess their actual impact and facilitate future improvements (see MEMO/14/369). Aid measures will also be made more transparent, by asking Member States to publish lists of the aid beneficiaries (see IP/14/588).

See MEMO/14/369 for more details on the changes introduced by the new GBER.

The Regulation is available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/competition/state_aid/legislation/block.html#gber

Background

On 8th May 2012 the Commission adopted a Communication on State Aid Modernisation setting out the objectives of an ambitious reform package (see IP/12/458). 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. As part of this package, the Commission has already reformed its state aid procedures (see IP/13/728) and adopted new guidelines on state aid for broadband (see IP/12/1424), regional development (see IP/13/569), cinema (see IP/13/1074), airports and airlines (see IP/14/172), risk finance (see IP/14/21), energy and environment (see IP/14/400), as well as today's adoption of new rules for public measures in favour of research, development and innovation (see IP/14/586).

The Commission already carried out four public consultations in the context of the revision of the GBER (see IP/12/627, MEX/13/0508, IP/13/736, and IP/13/1281).

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, who then examines whether they are in line with EU state aid rules under existing guidelines and frameworks.

Contacts :

Antoine Colombani (+32 2 297 45 13, Twitter: @ECspokesAntoine)

Yizhou Ren (+32 2 299 48 89)

For the public: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11 or by e­mail


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