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Brussels, 7 July 2008

State aid: Commission adopts Regulation automatically approving aid for jobs and growth

The European Commission has adopted a Regulation, which will come into force in the coming weeks, giving automatic approval for a range of aid measures and so allowing Member States to grant such aid without first notifying the Commission. The Regulation authorises aid in favour of SMEs, research, innovation, regional development, training, employment and risk capital. The Regulation also authorises environmental protection aid, aid measures promoting entrepreneurship, such as aid for young innovative businesses, aid for newly created small businesses in assisted regions, and measures tackling problems, like difficulties in access to finance, faced by female entrepreneurs. As well as encouraging Member States to focus their state resources on aid that will be of real benefit to job creation and Europe's competitiveness, the Regulation reduces the administrative burden for public authorities, the beneficiaries and the Commission. This new General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER) consolidates into one text and harmonises the rules previously existing in five separate Regulations, and enlarges the categories of state aid covered by the exemption. It will take effect 20 days after publication in the Official Journal, allowing Member States to grant better targeted aid immediately.

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: "These new rules set out a clear framework to allow Member States to grant aid targeted at creating jobs, boosting competitiveness and improving the environment without the Commission having to get involved at all. The Commission is therefore delivering on its commitments, in line with the State Aid Action Plan and the Small Business Act, to make it quicker and easier for Member States to give the right kinds of state aid."

The 2005 "State Aid Action Plan" (see IP/05/680 and MEMO/05/195 ) aims to create a simple, user-friendly and coherent set of rules for aid which is likely to promote economic development without unduly distorting competition (and so fulfils the conditions of compatibility outlined in Article 87(3) of the EC Treaty). Simplification can best be achieved with the adoption of "block exemptions" exempting Member States from the obligation of prior notification of the aid to the Commission.

This Regulation also constitutes an important and immediately effective contribution to the Small Business Act adopted by the Commission in June 2008 (see IP/08/1003). It will allow Member States to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) at different stages of their development. All of the 26 categories of aid covered in the Regulation can be provided to SMEs. To the extent such aid is also available to large companies, SMEs will benefit from a special top-up.

In line with the Commission's "Better Regulation" agenda, the GBER also harmonises, as far as possible, all horizontal aspects applying to the different aid areas concerned. The GBER therefore incorporates the content of a series of existing state aid instruments adopted by the Commission since 2001: aid to SMEs, research and development aid in favour of SMEs, aid for employment, training aid and regional aid. In addition, the Regulation integrates five categories of aid which had, so far, not been block exempted: environmental aid, innovation aid, research and development aid for large companies, aid in the form of risk capital and aid for enterprises newly created by female entrepreneurs. The exemption conditions for the latter type of aid measures are consistent with the recently adopted guidelines on state aid for environmental protection (see IP/08/80 and MEMO/08/31 ), the risk capital guidelines (see IP/06/1015 ) and the Framework on Research & Development & Innovation (see IP/06/1600 and MEMO/06/441 ).

The Regulation also builds further on the Guidelines on state aid for environmental protection, by exempting from notification a set of varied subsidies promoting environmental protection. The simplified treatment offered by the Regulation constitutes one more tool for Member States to implement the EU's Climate Action Plan (see IP/07/29 and IP/08/80 ).

Aid measures not included in the GBER are not necessarily illegal. They will simply remain subject to the traditional notification requirement: the Commission will examine such notifications on the basis of the existing guidelines and frameworks.

The categories of aid authorised by the GBER are aid for:

  • SME investment and employment

  • small enterprises newly created by female entrepreneurs

  • consultancy in favour of SMEs

  • SME participation in fairs

  • provision of risk capital

  • research and development

  • technical feasibility studies

  • industrial property rights costs for SMEs

  • research and development in the agricultural and fisheries sectors

  • young innovative enterprises

  • innovation advisory services and for innovation support services

  • the loan of highly qualified personnel

  • training

  • recruitment of disadvantaged workers in the form of wage subsidies

  • employment of disabled workers in the form of wage subsidies

  • compensating the additional costs of employing disabled workers

  • regional investment and employment

  • newly created small enterprises in assisted regions

  • investment to go beyond Community standards for environmental protection

  • acquisition of transport vehicles which go beyond Community environmental protection standards

  • early adaptation to future environmental standards for SMEs

  • investment in energy saving measures

  • investment in high efficiency cogeneration

  • investment in the promotion of energy from renewable energy

  • environmental studies

  • the environment, in the form of tax reductions

The GBER is available at:

See also MEMO/08/481

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