Brussels, 11 June 2014
State aid: Commission approves regional aid map 2014-2020 for Portugal
The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules Portugal's map for granting state aid between 2014 and 2020. The map is based on the 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 businesses 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: “Portugal's new regional aid map supports our cohesion policy and will enable Portuguese authorities to use well-designed aid measures to promote investment and further economic growth in less developed areas. Portugal will now be able to implement its regional development strategy for 2014-2020.''
The regional aid map for Portugal defines the Portuguese regions that are eligible for regional investment aid under EU state aid rules, and establishes the maximum aid levels (so-called "aid intensities") for companies in the eligible regions. The map will be in force between 1 July 2014 and 31 December 2020.
The designated areas have a total population of 8.97 million or 85.01 % of the population of Portugal. The maximum levels of aid that can be granted to regional investment projects carried out by large enterprises in the assisted areas are between 10% and 45% of total investment costs, depending on the area concerned. For investments carried out by SMEs, these percentages can be increased by 10 percentage points for medium-sized enterprises and 20 percentage points for small enterprises.
Under the regional aid guidelines, areas with a GDP per capita below 75% of the EU average are prioritised to receive regional investment aid. This is because the main purpose of such aid is to foster the development of the less advantaged regions of Europe. Under the new map, regions accounting for 69.01% of Portugal's population fall into this category and will continue to be eligible for regional investment aid at maximum aid intensities ranging from 25% of the eligible costs of the relevant investment projects in mainland Portugal over 35% in Madeira up to 45% in the Azores.
Other regions which are less advantaged relative to the EU or national average (but with a GDP per capita above 75% of the EU average) can also be eligible provided that they comply with certain criteria and with an overall population coverage ceiling. This allows Member States to tackle their own regional disparities. As these regions are less disadvantaged than areas with a GDP per capita below 75% of the EU average, both the geographic scope and the aid intensity are more limited. Areas covering 15.77% of the population of Portugal will be eligible for regional investment aid under this category, at a maximum aid intensity of 10% of the eligible costs of the relevant investment projects.
The maximum aid intensities for regional investment aid in Portugal's assisted regions have slightly decreased as compared to the previous map (up to 5 percentage points as compared to the situation in the period 1.1.2011-30.06.2014, depending on the region).
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)(a) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) allows Member States to grant state aid to promote the economic development of areas where the standard of living is abnormally low or where there is serious underemployment. The regional aid guidelines define these areas as regions with a GDP per capita below 75 % of the EU average and outermost regions. Moreover, in order to ensure a smooth transition, regions that were under the previous aid map considered below the threshold of 75% of EU GDP will continue to be pre-defined at EU level as eligible for regional aid for the following regional aid map.
Article 107(3)(c) TFEU allows regional state aid to facilitate the development of certain economic activities or of certain economic areas where such aid 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 promoting investment by allowing aid in 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 area 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.38571 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.