Over 96% of new implemented aid measures fell under the General Block Exemption Regulation and could be quickly implemented by Member States to the benefit of citizens, businesses and regions, avoiding bureaucracy, red tape and delays.
Margrethe Vestager, Commissioner in charge of competition policy, said: "The latest State Aid Scoreboard confirms that the modernisation of State aid rules continues to result in less red tape and faster allocation of resources. This allows the Commission to focus its attention on measures that are more likely to distort competition. Furthermore, the Scoreboard confirms that the modernisation of State aid rules encourages Member States to focus their support on projects that benefit Europe's competitiveness and foster important EU objectives"
The annual State Aid Scoreboard is based on expenditure reports provided by Member States and covers all existing aid measures to industries, services, agriculture and fisheries. It also includes aid granted to financial institutions in the context of the financial and economic crisis. Aid to railways and services of general economic interest is not covered by the Scoreboard.
The 2018 State Aid Scoreboard shows that:
- Since 2015, more than 96% of new aid measures for which expenditure was reported for the first time fell under the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER) - an absolute increase of about 28 percentage points compared to 2013. This development is in line with the Commission's approach to be 'big on big things and small on small things' – to focus on delivering more and faster, while doing less where it is perceived not to have an added value.
- Total spending on measures covered by GBER in the EU amounted to about €41.7 billion in 2017, a substantial increase of about €7.8 billion compared to 2016. For the first time, spending under GBER increased for all possible objectives and, in particular, significantly increased for: (i) broadband and local and multi recreational infrastructures (+129%); (ii) aid to small and medium-sized companies and risk finance (+81%); (iii) social support to individual consumers (+ 56%); (iv) research, development and innovation (+30%); (v) aid to culture and heritage conservation (+28%); and (vi) employment (+21%).
- The growing share of spending falling under GBER implies that, on average, State aid measures that are registered by the Commission can be implemented much more quickly than in the past by Member States. The average time to implement State aid measures decreased from about 3.3 months before the introduction of the State aid Modernisation rules, to about 2.8 months over the period 2016-2017 - a decrease of 15%.
- At the same time, notified measures that are still subject to more careful scrutiny tend to cover bigger budgets and spending than in the past, in line with the Commission's approach to be 'big on big things and small on small things'. In 2017, the average annual budget of implemented notified measures was about €230 million, an increase of about 18% compared to 2015 and 126% compared to 2013.
- In 2017, Member States spent €116.2 billion, i.e. 0.76% of EU GDP, on State aid, compared with €106.6 billion in 2016, i.e. 0.72% of EU GDP.
- In 2017, around 94% of total State aid spending was allocated to horizontal objectives of common interest, such as environmental protection, research, development and innovation and regional development. In particular, around 53% of total State aid spending in 2017 was granted in support of environmental and energy saving measures. This is largely due to the approval and implementation of numerous renewable energy initiatives in many Member States.
- The level of State aid used by the financial sector is at its lowest level since the beginning of the crisis, except for capital aid instruments where around €12.1 billion were granted to address legacy cases requiring recapitalisation aid. The European banking sector is also generally relying less on government guarantees for liquidity aid support as it is able to find the necessary liquidity on the market.
State Aid Modernisation
Since May 2012, the Commission has implemented a major reform package, State Aid Modernisation. The reform allows Member States to quickly implement State aid that fosters investment, economic growth and job creation, leaving the Commission to focus its State aid control on cases most liable to distort competition.
As part of this package, new rules were introduced in July 2014 and 2017 to reduce the administrative burden for less distortive aid measures, which Member States no longer have to notify in advance to the Commission (the General Block Exemption Regulation, see full text here). At the same time, measures that might seriously harm competition or fragment the Single Market are subject to more careful scrutiny.
A number of initiatives aiming at safeguarding the balance between flexibility and responsibility have been introduced, namely Member States' obligation to be transparent about aid allocations over €500,000, monitoring and evaluation.
Since Member States no longer have to notify the simpler cases, Commission staff are now able to work intensively on the more complex cases. Despite increased complexity, the duration of those procedures is now stable at about five months.
Under the new transparency requirements, Member States are required since 1 July 2016 to publish the name of the beneficiary and the amount of aid granted for each state aid award above €500,000. The Commission has developed a new IT platform – Transparency Award Module (TAM) – where all Member States are required to encode and publish information. As of today, about 45,000 aid awards have been published by 25 Member States.