This first public consultation on draft provisions to extend the 2014 General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER) is open until 30 May 2016. The Commission will take into account views and comments by stakeholders and prepare an updated draft, which will be subject to a second public consultation, currently planned for autumn this year, before deciding on the final Regulation.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, stated: "Ports and airports are key infrastructure for economic growth and regional development. Our proposals aim at facilitating unproblematic public investments in ports and airports that can create jobs, by exempting them from scrutiny under EU state aid rules. I would like to encourage all public authorities, companies and others that would benefit from this simplification of state aid rules to participate in this consultation."
One of the main objectives of the Commission's State Aid Modernisation (SAM) initiative is to streamline state aid rules and procedures to minimise administrative burdens and make it easier to grant aid that contributes to a more dynamic and competitive Single Market. A key part of SAM was the revision of the GBER, which considerably extended the scope of exemptions from prior notification of state aid granted to companies. Under the revised GBER Member States are able to grant more aid measures and higher amounts without having to notify them to the Commission for prior authorisation. This cuts red tape for projects that are unlikely to distort competition and allows for well-defined projects to go ahead as fast as possible. It also allows the Commission to focus its efforts on more distortive types of aid.
The Commission now intends to also include exemptions for investment aid to ports and airports in the GBER. This scope extension was already announced in the currently applicable GBER and planned for as soon as the Commission built up sufficient case experience to design comprehensive exemption criteria. After 33 state aid decisions on ports and 54 state aid decisions on airports, the Commission is now ready to propose such criteria. The draft provisions in public consultation seek to ensure, for example, that aid can only be granted for transport-related investments and that the aid does not go beyond what is necessary to make the investment happen, taking into account future revenues from the investment.
In addition, the Commission also plans to address some technical issues encountered in the current GBER in order to further facilitate its uptake. In particular, the Commission wants to make it easier for public authorities to compensate companies for the additional costs they face operating in the EU's outermost regions so that support measures can take better account of the challenges and specificities of these companies. Finally, in view of the limited negative effects on competition of aid for culture, the Commission plans to further increase the exemption thresholds for this type of aid.
The initiative aims to reduce administrative burdens for public authorities and other stakeholders and is part of the Regulatory Fitness and Performance of EU Legislation (REFIT) agenda.
The objectives and the procedure of this initiative are explained in the Roadmap available at: http://ec.europa.eu/smart-regulation/roadmaps/docs/2017_comp_002_gber_en.pdf
The draft amending Regulation and all details about the public consultation are available at: http://ec.europa.eu/competition/consultations/2016_gber_review/index_en.html