State Aid Law Blog

State Aid Uncovered Blog/Guest State Aid Blog

On a weekly basis Phedon Nicolaides posts critical analysis pieces on the latest State aid judgments and decisions on his blog State Aid Uncovered. Each article presents the main points of a court ruling or Commission‘s decision, places them in the context of similar case law or practice, assesses the underlying reasoning, and identifies any inconsistencies or contradictions.
Occasional guest blog posts by other State aid experts complement the State aid knowledge hub.

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Taxation of Multinational Companies: The Apple Case – A Political Setback for the Commission, but a Victory on Principle

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Defects, incompleteness and inconsistencies in tax rulings are not sufficient to prove the existence of an advantage in the meaning of Article 107(1) TFEU. Update on Temporary Framework: Number of approved and published covid-19 measures, as of 17 July 2020: 213* Legal basis: Article 107(2)(b): 21; Article 107(3)(b): 179; Article 107(3)(c): 18 Five Member States have implemented 13 or more […]

2019 Competition Report

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The Annual Competition Report is a useful document, but it should provide more information on the results of the ex post evaluations and ex post monitoring. Update on Temporary Framework: Number of approved and published COVID-19 measures, as of 10 July 2020: 202* Legal basis: Article 107(2)(b): 20; Article 107(3)(b): 171; Article 107(3)(c): 17 Six Member States have implemented 11 […]

Third Amendment to the Temporary Framework & Prolongation of the GBER, De Minimis Regulation and Guidelines

european commission
Micro and small enterprises in difficulty are no longer excluded from the Temporary Framework. Undertakings in difficulty as a result of COVID-19 are no longer excluded from the GBER and Guidelines. Update on Temporary Framework: Number of approved and published COVID-19 measures, as of 3 July 2020: 185* Legal basis: Article 107(2)(b): 17 Article 107(3)(b): 155; Article 107(3)(c): 16 Five […]

Health Insurance Based on Social Solidarity Is Non-economic

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I am grateful to Peter Staviczky for comments on an earlier version of this article. I am, of course, solely responsible for the views expressed here. Public funding of health insurance systems based on social solidarity does not constitute State aid. Limited competition for the purpose of increasing efficiency does not affect the non-economic nature of such systems. Update on […]

The Commission’s White Paper on Foreign Subsidies: A Real Problem that Needs Sharper Tools

The European Commission proposes new instruments to counter unfair foreign subsidies and acquisition of European companies. Temporary Framework: Number of approved Covid-19 measures, as of 20 June 2020: 164* Legal basis: Article 107(2)(b): 14; Article 107(3)(b): 137; Article 107(3)(c): 15 Fifteen measures support R&D, testing or production of Covid-19 related products. Three measures support recapitalisation. The Member States with the […]

Direct v Indirect Advantages: The Case of Sardinian Airports

Public funding that flows through intermediaries to third parties also counts as a state resource if the intermediaries carry out instructions by the funding authority. Temporary Framework: Number of approved covid-19 measures, as of 12 June 2020: 154* Legal basis: Article 107(2)(b): 14; Article 107(3)(b): 130; Article 107(3)(c): 14 Three recapitalisation measures have been approved [Finland, Lithuania & Poland]. The […]

When State Aid Gets Political

We are happy to receive a guest comment on the EU – UK post-Brexit trade negotiations from Professor Emerita, Erika Szyszczak, who is a Fellow of UKTPO at the University of Sussex. This is a longer version of an earlier Blog published on the UKTPO website. Control over State aid is a stumbling block for the future of an EU […]

Private Investor and Preferential Regulatory Treatment

pills on money
The existence of an advantage has to be proven, not presumed just because its absence cannot be confirmed. Preferential treatment may distort competition but it is not necessarily State aid if there is no transfer of state resources. Temporary Framework: Number of approved covid-19 measures, as of 5 June 2020: 148* Legal basis: Article 107(2)(b): 13; Article 107(3)(b): 125; Article […]

i) Investor-State Arbitration ii) Recovery of Incompatible State Aid iii) State Aid Scoreboard 2019

Euromünzen
Member States abolish bilateral investment treaties between themselves. When the Commission orders recovery of incompatible State aid, interest has to be added to the recoverable amount for the whole period of illegality regardless of any national limitation rules. In 2018, Member States granted EUR 121 billion to industry and services, EUR 6.3 billion to agriculture and EUR 50 billion to […]

State Aid for i) Water Development ii) Travel

Aid to individuals in the context of social policy is compatible with the internal market as long as it is granted without discrimination on the origin of products or services. Temporary Framework: Number of approved covid-19 measures, as of 22 May 2020: 129* Legal basis: Article 107(2)(b): 9; Article 107(3)(b): 111; Article 107(3)(c): 12 * Excludes amendments to previously notified […]

No New Aid to Undertakings that Have not Yet Repaid Incompatible Aid

Money in Hands
There is no rule in EU law obliging Member States to grant State aid. The European Commission may refuse to authorise aid until previous aid that was found to be incompatible with the internal market is paid back. Temporary Framework: Number of approved covid-19 measures, as of 16 May 2020: 125* Legal basis: Article 107(2)(b): 10; Article 107(3)(b): 105; Article […]

Belgium and COVID-19: The European Commission Approves Several Belgian State Aid Measures

corona virus
We are happy to share with you an update on the Covid-19 measures that have been approved in Belgium. Our guest auhor Wout De Cock is a PhD candidate at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and part-time teaching assistant at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.* Introduction In issue 1/2020 of the European State Aid Law Quarterly, we concluded that the European Commission […]

Advantage Must be Proven, Not Assumed

Road sign "Wrong Way"
The European Commission has to consider whether the private investor principle is applicable in cases of state investments. It is for Member States to prove that their investments conform with the private investor principle. Temporary Framework As of 9 May 2020, the European Commission had approved 113 State aid measures to combat covid-19. Their legal basis was: Article 107(2)(b): 10; […]

Non-recovery of Incompatible State aid Is Costly

corona virus poster
Legal and practical difficulties in the recovery of incompatible State aid do not constitute justifiable “absolute impossibility”. Temporary Framework On 1 May, the total number of State aid measures to combat covid-19 approved by the European Commission reached 102. Their legal basis was: Article 107(2)(b): 9; Article 107(3)(b): 86; Article 107(3)(c): 7   Introduction The 2020 Temporary Framework for State […]

Identification of Undertakings in Difficulty

corona virus poster
A company is in difficulty if, in practice, its accumulated net losses exceed 50% of its subscribed capital, regardless of whether the subscribed capital is formally written down. The classification of a company as being in difficulty is independent of the sector in which it operates and of whether a private investor would be willing to invest in it. Also […]

How to Price a Guarantee

Football ball on a field
The pricing of a guarantee must take into account not only the financial situation of the borrower but also the value of any collateral.   Join our live webinar on Applying State Aid Law in the UK Now on 23 April! Leading State aid experts Jonathan Branton, George Peretz QC and Alexander Rose work through the current EU State aid rules as they […]

COVID-19 Measures Adopted and State Aid Measures (Hopefully) to Be Adopted: An Update from Cyprus

Corona Virus
We are happy to share with you an update on the Covid-19 measures that are or will be adopted in Cyprus. Our guest auhor Michail Kamperis is a lawyer and partner at the law firm of Ierotheou, Kamperis & Co. LLC Nicosia, Cyprus. * Sign up for our free news alert  Sign Up For Free   Cyprus is one of […]

Errors in State aid Procedures Need not Result in Annulment of a Commission Decision

Interested parties have a right to know how the compatibility of aid with the internal market is assessed. Temporary Framework developments As of 13 April 2020, the European Commission had authorised 51 measures adopted by 23 Member States. According to the statement of the Eurozone finance ministers of 9 April 2020, Member States had provided liquidity in the form of […]

Follow Up Webinar with Phedon Nicolaides on ‚COVID-19 and State Aid Law‘ on 20 April

Woman sitting by the computer
The European Commission is working on quickly adapting the existing State aid legal framework to address the current Covid-19 pandemic. Join us on 20th April from the comfort and safety of your (home) office to get an insider update on the Covid-19 response by State aid experts from the European Commission and national governments. ✓ Join from wherever you are – […]

Open Access Content Related to Covid-19: At a Glance

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During these tough times, Lexxion Publisher wants to help to spread current news and updates on new regulations or support measures for combating the impact of the corona pandemic. Various contributions will be available as open access during the upcoming weeks. This post lists all contributions and will be updated on a rolling basis. Contributions related to State Aid & […]

EU Decisions Override National Decisions on Compensation for Public Service Obligations

The principle of res judicata cannot be used to avoid recovery of incompatible State aid.   An update on State aid measures to counter the impact of COVID-19 As of 3 April 2020, the Commission has approved 29 measures submitted by 16 Member States. Article 107(3)(b) is the legal basis for 26 of those measures, while Article 107(2)(b) is the […]

Covid-19 Support Package for Entrepreneurs: An Update from Poland

Corona Virus
We are happy to share with you an update on the Covid-19 support package that Poland is creating to support entrepeneurs fighting the impact of the corona pandemic. Our guest auhor P. Kamil Rosiak is Attorney-at-Law & Partner Associate at KPMG D.Dobkowski LP in Warsaw.* On 28 March 2020 the lower house of Polish parliament (Sejm) passed a bill (so […]

Live Webinar: Covid-19 & State Aid Law in the UK Now

older woman sitting at the table, writting
Lexxion has created another new live webinar to keep you updated on current developments of Covid-19 and State aid law in the UK after Brexit. Leading State aid experts Jonathan Branton, George Peretz QC and Alexander Rose will work through the current EU State aid rules and answer your questions.   ✓ Join from wherever you are – high-quality content at […]

How to Make Good the Damage Caused by a Natural Disaster

Compensation for costs incurred as a result of a natural disaster is State aid. The compensation must be for damage directly caused by the natural disaster. Introduction State aid to make good the damage caused by an “exceptional occurrence” such as the corona virus covid-19 is compatible with the internal market. The legal basis for exemption is Article 107(2)(b). Of […]

Join our live webinar with Phedon Nicolaides on ‚COVID-19 and State Aid Law‘ on 2 April

hands typing on the laptop
Due to global developments and responding to various requests, Lexxion has created a live webinar to keep you updated on the latest news regarding the corona virus and State aid law. You can join from wherever you are and receive high-quality content at your (home) office.   In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, EU Member States are urgently rolling out […]

A New Temporary State aid Framework to Fight the Effects of the Corona Virus

corona virus poster
Member States will be allowed to provide grants, guarantees and loans to companies to alleviate the effects of the corona virus. Introduction At the end of 2009, the European Commission adopted a Temporary Framework of State aid rules to enable Member States to support companies that were harmed by the outbreak of the financial crisis in 2008. Now, the corona […]

Has an Economic Myth Become a Legal Fact? The Case of Turnover Taxes

Progressive turnover taxes are not contrary to the freedom of establishment or the right of equal treatment. Introduction Recent cases involving “turnover” taxes have sparked a debate in the literature and on the conference circuit not only because they raise novel issues but also because of their implications for other taxes which are being mooted by European governments. As Advocate-General […]

Financial Transactions between the State and Banks with No State aid

Capital injections, state guarantees and loans granted to banks can be free of State aid if they are priced at market rates which reflect the risk borne by the state. Introduction If banks can obtain capital, loans and guarantees from the state at market rates why don’t they go directly to the market? No one has yet given a satisfactory […]

Public Funding of Infrastructure without State Aid

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The existence of State aid must be checked at the level of both the direct and indirect beneficiaries who are the owners and users of infrastructure, respectively. If payments to private land owners are to be free of State aid, they must be calculated on the basis of an objective formula that takes into account the size and value of […]

Environmental Remediation and State Liability

Liability assumed by the state for the actions of an undertaking constitutes a selective advantage that may result in potential transfer of state resources in the future. Introduction On 16 January 2020 the General Court delivered its judgment in case T‑257/18, Iberpotash v European Commission.[1] Iberpotash, a Spanish company, appealed against Commission decision 2018/118. Iberpotash owns and operates potash mines […]

From Waste to Energy

State aid to incentivise the use of waste to produce energy must be individually notified. Introduction Waste management is an increasingly important aspect of policies aiming to prevent environmental degradation and slow down climate change. As the market for recycling expands and waste management becomes more profitable, there is also a higher risk of harm to competition by State aid. […]

An Important (and so far, Unique) Project of Common European Interest

State aid for important R&D projects of common European interest can cover different costs than the RDI Framework and at different rates of intensity. Introduction Several Member States have demanded a more active industrial policy to counteract perceived unfair foreign competition. The Commission’s response has partly been that current rules do allow cross-border cooperation for the development of innovative products. […]

How to Compensate for the Extra Cost of Public Service Obligations: Step-by-Step Guidance on a Complex Calculation

The “net avoided cost methodology” takes into account only incremental costs. Introduction The two most difficult issues in the design of State aid measures to support services of general economic interest [SGEI] are the proper definition of the public service obligation [PSO] and the identification of the “counterfactual” on the basis of which the public service compensation [PSC] is calculated. […]

State Aid Rules in the UK after Brexit: Alignment or Divergence?

The current rules will apply at least until 31 December 2020. Introduction On Saturday, 1 February 2020, the United Kingdom will no longer be a Member of the European Union. Will it then have to abide by EU State aid rules? According to the Agreement on the Withdrawal of the UK from the EU, the whole of the UK will […]

Public Subsidies to Households Can Be State aid

Support for individual borrowers can be indirect State aid to banks.   Introduction The fact that a public measure has social objectives and aims to help poor households or disadvantaged persons instead of undertakings does not necessarily remove it from the reach of State aid rules. During the past decade, in response to the economic crisis, a number of Member […]

Exclusive Rights and Legal Monopolies

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State aid rules can apply to sectors which are legal monopolies. Introduction The fact that a company enjoys exclusive rights and operates in a sector covered by a legal monopoly does not necessarily insulate it from State aid rules. This has been confirmed by the Court of Justice in its judgment of 19 December 2019, in case C-385/18, Arriva Italia […]

Bail-in Is the Responsibility of Member States

Commission approval of State aid to bail-out a bank does not give rise to right for compensation for creditors who are bailed-in. Introduction Investors in banks who lost their money have sought compensation both at EU and national level. So far, claims for damages at EU level have been unsuccessful. In some instances, the cases before EU and national courts […]

5 Most Read Articles on StateAidUncovered in 2019

Groundbreaking judgments like “Eesti Pagar”, applications of the private investor principle in air transport or questions of interpretation of the GBER besides many more, have moved and shaped this year’s judgments on State aid. Also Brexit and its meaning for State aid control in the UK has still been on everyone’s mind. See which articles by Prof. Phedon Nicolaides were […]

A Preferential Electricity Tariff Is Selective, Confers an Advantage and Distorts Competition

A judicial decision on interim measures is a selective measure. The private investor test does not apply to judicial decisions on interim measures. Introduction On 11 December 2019, in case C‑332/18 P, Mytilinaios Anonymos Etairia — Omilos Epicheiriseon v European Commission, the Court of Justice probably wrote the last chapter in a long-running case concerning privileges that had been granted […]

Can a Tax (rather than a Tax Exemption) Confer a Selective Advantage?

A tax that is levied at one level of government and does not apply to products and activities at a different level of government need not be selective. Introduction A tax exemption normally confers a selective advantage, unless it is justified by the logic of the tax. Counterintuitively, a tax itself can be selectively advantageous if its scope is too […]

Retroactive Application of the GBER

When an aid scheme is adjusted by limiting the eligible beneficiaries, it becomes “new” aid and must be notified to the Commission. The GBER can be applied retroactively to aid that was granted before it came into force.   Introduction In July 2016, Dilly’s Wellnesshotel wrote legal history for being the first undertaking to contest the application of the General […]

Will Brexit Usher in Protectionism?

The Financial Times reported on Friday, 29 November 2019, that the Conservative party in the UK announced that it would establish a different state aid system to “protect British industry after Brexit”. The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, was quoted to have said at a press conference on the same date that the new state aid system would make it “faster […]

Separability of Economic from Non-economic Activities

Activities which are inseparable from the exercise of official powers are non-economic. Introduction   Pure research whose results are widely disseminated is undoubtedly a non-economic activity. Research reports are often published on the internet. But the design and management of a research organisation’s website can be an economic activity. Plenty of private companies provide these services for a fee. Does […]

How to Assess a Shareholder Loan

A shareholder loan cannot be simply compared to a bank loan because the shareholder also benefits from improvements in the future profitability of the borrower. Introduction When a public authority grants a loan to a company, the methodology in the 2008 Commission communication on reference and discount rates can be used to determine whether the loan contains State aid. However, […]

Compensation to a Toll Road Operator

Contractual obligation to provide compensation that does not exceed the loss of income is not State aid. Introduction When is a company entitled to compensation by the state? The easy answer is “when the state is liable for damage”. However, it may be possible for a company to claim compensation from the state when the state has assumed contractual obligations. […]

Risk Finance

Risk finance measures for the support for large enterprises or SMEs which operate for longer than seven years fall outside the GBER and must be notified individually to the Commission. Introduction Since the State aid modernisation and the new rules that were introduced in 2014, only a handful of risk finance measures [7-8?] have been notified to the European Commission […]

Economic Continuity in Recovery of Incompatible State aid

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The new owner of a company that received incompatible State aid may be liable to pay it back. Introduction   Companies rarely escape from the obligation to repay incompatible State aid. Over the past decade or so, very few companies have successfully argued that they legitimately expected that the aid they received was compatible with the internal market. When a […]

The Operator of an Economic Infrastructure is an Undertaking

The assignment of public service tasks to an infrastructure operator is not sufficient to prevent the application of State aid rules. Introduction The characterisation of an entity as an undertaking is activity based, not status based. If it carries out activities for which there is a market, it becomes an undertaking, regardless of providing services which are in the general […]

Production of Green Electricity

Member States may reduce the amount of State aid they grant and companies may not claim they have a right to State aid. Introduction Close to 60% of all aid granted to industry and services in the EU goes to support environmental protection, energy efficiency and the generation of electricity from renewable sources of energy. However, as technology improves, the […]

Attempting to Minimise Past State aid Is of No Interest to a Private Investor

A public authority acting as a private investor ignores past State aid. Introduction It is now a settled principle that when a public authority intends or pretends to act as a private investor it must not take into account any past aid it has granted to the company in which it wants to invest. On 19 September 2019, the General Court […]

Public Service Obligations, Duration of Entrustment and Reasonable Profit

The duration of entrustment should not exceed the economic life of the investment and the rate of return should reflect the commercial risk of that investment. Introduction Is a 55-year entrustment through a direct award compatible with EU rules? And is a profit rate that exceeds the risk-free rate of return reasonable? These are some of the questions that the […]

Enforcement of State Aid Rules by National Courts

Private enforcement has increased, but damages for illegal granting of State aid have been successfully claimed in just one case. Introduction   According to the annual competition report that was published in July, Member States use the GBER to implement 96% of their new aid measures.[1] This impressive outcome should be seen in conjunction with the recent rulings of the Court […]

“Invest-NL”: A New Promotional Bank

A state-owned promotional or development bank can pursue public policy objectives and also invest on terms which are acceptable to private investors. Introduction During the past decade or so several Member States have established “promotional” or “development” banks for the purpose of investing where the market does not. Private investors may be reluctant to commit their money for a variety […]

Sale of a Bank without State aid

The sale must be open, transparent, non-discriminatory, unconditional and the winning bid must be the offer with the highest price. Introduction The German HSH Nordbank used to be the largest provider of ship finance in the world. It had commercial presence in over 20 major financial centres. Before the outbreak of the financial crisis in 2008, HSH Nordbank had a […]

Individually Notified Regional Aid

All individual awards of aid granted to the same project over a three-year period have to be counted together and remain below the maximum allowable aid intensity in relation to the sum of eligible costs. Introduction Hungary operates an aid scheme that offers tax credits to encourage regional investment. The scheme has been implemented on the basis of the GBER […]

Presumed v Actual Compatibility of State aid with the Internal Market

State aid granted on the basis of the GBER may not be considered as authorised by the Commission. The task of Member States is to ensure that all of the requirements of the GBER are fulfilled. In particular, Member States must confirm the incentive effect of aid to large enterprises. Introduction[1]   In March 2019, the Court of Justice delivered […]

A Curious Case of Port Concessions

The obligations of a concessionaire may be made less onerous in order to enable it to remain in operation. Any adjustment of the obligations takes into account the possible legal defences of the concessionaire. Introduction The Market Economy Investor Principle [MEIP] is a powerful concept. Its many variations attest to its versatility [e.g. market economy investor, operator, vendor, creditor]. It […]

Repayable Advances for Support of Research Projects

The amount of State aid in a repayable advance to support research projects is the difference between the return a private investor would demand and the actual return for the funding authority. Introduction According to the staff working paper accompanying the 2018 annual competition report that was published on 15 July 2019, 95% of all State aid measures supporting R&D […]

Aid to Providers of Local Services through Exclusive Contracts Can still Affect Cross-border Trade

An exclusive contract can affect cross-border trade if the awarding authority has the option to use a competitive selection procedure. Aid to the operator of a legal monopoly may affect trade if the operator can cross-subsidise activities outside the area of the monopoly. Introduction A perennial question is whether aid to providers of local services can affect cross-border trade. Given […]

Transport: Airlines and Bus Operators

For investment aid to the operator of an airport to be considered as indirect aid to airlines, there must be an inseparable link between the aid and beneficiary airlines. For a competitor to claim that it is harmed by State aid, it must prove that its position in the relevant market is substantially affected. Ensuring that the costs of public […]

The Problem with Turnover Taxes

Economies of scale do not necessarily correlate with ability to pay. Introduction On Thursday, 11 July 2019, France became the first European country to adopt a tax on digital sales. At about the same time, President Donald Trump warned that the US would retaliate with punitive tariffs. The US believes that the tax is aimed at its internet giants such […]

The Rights of Unsuccessful Bidders in the Auctioning of State Assets

Competitors of aid recipients may challenge a Commission decision only if State aid causes substantial harm to them. Assets must be sold to the highest bidder who makes a credible offer. Introduction If a public authority sells a state asset at a price below its market rate it grants State aid to the buyer. The market price is the highest […]

Investor Protection and Existing Aid

Aid granted before accession to the EU may not be assessed by the Commission. Introduction It is fairly safe to say that in the sixty years of case law on State aid, the Court of Justice has ruled that there are just four instances in which payment of public money to an undertaking does not constitute State aid on the […]

1) The European Commission Does not Have to Identify Individual Beneficiaries in its Recovery Decisions 2) Revision of the GBER [InvestEU, Seal of Excellence, ETC]

This week’s article deals with two issues: possible defence against repayment of incompatible State aid and the forthcoming revision of the GBER. Introduction In 2008, the Commission ordered France to recover incompatible aid that had been granted by means of several public measures to support farmers [see Commission decision 2009/402]. What made that decision interesting was that part of the […]

Application of the MEOP to Energy Infrastructure

A public authority that acts as a private operator may charge what the market can bear. Introduction In January 2019, Germany notified to the Commission, for reasons of legal certainty, investment of the municipality of Hamburg in a district heating network. The Commission, in decision SA.52390, found that the investment in Hamburg District Heating Network conformed with the Market Economy […]

How to Value Land in Complex Land Swaps

A private investor assesses all components of a complex transaction and takes into account not just profit, but also the legal implications of the prospective transaction and possible future liability.   Introduction   When a public authority sells land, it should either auction it through a competitive and unconditional process or have it valued beforehand by an independent expert.Sometimes, public […]

Is it OK to Tax Company Size?*

Progressive tax rates that are consistent with the objective of the tax system are not necessarily selective. Introduction Member States are free to design their corporate tax systems as long as they do not grant State aid or infringe fundamental internal market freedoms. A question that arises in discussions on what Member States may or may not do when designing […]

I) Unlimited State Guarantees II) Effect on Trade

A competitor who wants to challenge a Commission decision authorising State aid without a formal investigation must, first, show that it is seriously harmed by the aid. Introduction This week’s article reviews two judgments: one on unlimited state guarantees granted by France [case T-135/17, Scor v European Commission][1] and another on aid that was found not to affect trade between Member […]

Not Every Compensation Is a Compensation in the Meaning of Altmark

Regulation and licensing do not constitute obligations for the provision of an SGEI. Compensation for changes in public policy is not compensation that complies with the Altmark conditions. Introduction The calculation of the compensation for the net extra costs of public service obligations [PSO] is a difficult task. On 15 May 2019, in case C-706/17, Achema et al v Lithuania […]

What Happens when Internal Market Rules and State Aid Rules Clash?

A tax refund may not be granted, if it constitutes non-notified State aid.   Introduction   It is a well-established principle that restrictions on internal market rights or freedoms may not be attached to a State aid measure. Indeed, current State aid rules [e.g. GBER, guidelines] explicitly exclude from their scope any aid measure which is inseparably linked to a […]

There Is No Threshold below which Economic Activities Can Be Considered to be Non-economic

Non-economic activities have to be accounted separately from economic activities. The exercise of public tasks assigned by the state cannot protect an undertaking from State aid rules. State aid distorts competition even when it aims to remedy distortions. Introduction Ports, like other transport infrastructures, may operate under public obligations some of which may be of economic and some of non-economic […]

Competitors’ Rights

A competitor must show that it is substantially affected by State aid approved by the Commission in order to challenge the Commission’s decision. Merely being affected by the aid is not enough. To show that aid has a substantial impact, it is first necessary to define the relevant market. This is different from the “distortion of competition” in the meaning […]

Land Development: The Case of Jaguar Land Rover Slovakia

Public funding of infrastructure which is not constructed for the specific needs of a company is not State aid.   Introduction An article carried by the Financial Times on 1 May 2019 revealed that Jaguar Land Rover [JLR] decided to make again the iconic Land Rover Defender. The production of this legendary off-roader ended about 10 years ago because it […]

The Commission Must Explain its Decision

A Commission decision that affects the legal position of an undertaking is actionable before EU courts. The opening of the formal investigation procedure must lead the Member State concerned to suspend the aid measure and may result in a recovery ruling by a national court. The Commission must be consistent in its reasoning. If it cannot use certain information at […]

State Control: The Case of EEG 2012

There is crucial difference between control by the state over resources and attribution to the state of the aid granting decision.   Introduction According to the latest edition of the State aid Scoreboard, in 2017 Member States granted a total of EUR 105 billion of State aid to manufacturing and services. Of that amount, 58% or EUR 61 billion supported […]

Spanish Football Clubs Score against the Commission: a) Linked Advantages and Disadvantages Must be Assessed Together b) In Determining the Existence of an Advantage, the Commission Must Explain both what it Takes into Account and what it Ignores

State measures which are linked and produce both positive and negative effects, must be considered together to determine whether they confer a net advantage to undertakings. Counter-guarantees must be taken into account to determine the existence of advantage even if they are provisional.   Introduction Member States have in a number of cases tried to defend tax reductions or tax […]

The Boundary between State and Private Resources

Discretion in the form of intervention can remove it from the control of the state.   Introduction Suppose a thug puts a gun to your head and demands your wallet. Because you have sentimental photos in your wallet, you offer instead the keys to your car. You would rather lose the car than the wallet. Can the thug claim in […]

The Incentive Effect of Public Funding of Infrastructure in Tranches

Public funding of functionally and commercially severable parts of an infrastructure project may have incentive effect even after construction is completed on some of the parts. A subsidy for the operation of a toll motorway may not constitute State aid.   Introduction State aid granted to a project that has already started lacks incentive effects and, therefore, cannot be found […]

National Authorities Must Recover Aid they Grant Mistakenly

Assurances from granting authorities cannot guarantee the legality of State aid. Aid recipients must verify that the aid is granted correctly.   Introduction The Commission must stop its misguided policy of not making public the answers it provides to Member States on questions of interpretation of the General Block Exemption Regulation [GBER]. This is one of the consequences of a […]

Many Tax Rulings Do Not Make a Single Aid Scheme

The autonomy that Member States enjoy in the field of direct taxation must be exercised in compliance with EU State aid law. A State aid measure is considered to be a “scheme” when (a) no further implementing acts are necessary, (b) the granting authority has no discretion in how the measure is applied and (c) the measure defines the eligible […]

How Can Incompatible State Aid Be Passed-on from one Company to another to Avoid Recovery?

Introduction State aid that is incompatible with the internal market has to be paid back, unless the repayment would be contrary to a general principle of EU law. Last November the Court of Justice ruled in case C‑622/16 P, Scuola Elementare Maria Montessori v European Commission that “(79) the principle that ‘no one is obliged to do the impossible’ is among the […]

How Much May a Non-Economic Entity Charge without Becoming an Undertaking?

The price should not cover more than 50% of the costs. Introduction An entity that does not make profit can still be an undertaking. However, an entity that charges a fee for its services is not necessarily an undertaking. The EU Court of Justice has never defined how low such a fee must be in order for that entity to […]

EU Rules do not Impose a Time Limit on the Power of National Courts to Deal with Non-notified Aid

State aid may affect trade even when the market concerned is not liberalised. This can happen when the aid recipient also has operations outside that market, which it can cross-subsidise. Claims for damages caused by illegal aid must be accorded the same treatment under national law as any other claim resulting from faulty decisions of the state.   Introduction A […]

Support for Non-Performing Loans in Cyprus

Public assistance to households to pay for their mortgages is not State aid. Public assistance to enterprises to pay for their loans may be qualified as de minimis aid. Public assistance to households and de minimis aid to enterprises to pay for their loans are indirect aid to banks, which, however, falls outside the directive on bank recovery and resolution […]

What Does a Private Investor Take into Account before Investing?

A private investor may invest in a troubled company that is restructuring is order to increase its future profitability.   Introduction   The answer to the question posed above is short and simple: everything relevant. A private investor does not ignore anything that can affect the profitability of the prospective investment.This implies that the other side of the coin is […]

Pari Passu Is not Static

When comparing the behaviour of public and private creditors, it is necessary to ensure that their situations and interests do not diverge over time.   Introduction   When an undertaking owes money to a public authority the latter must use all available legal means to recover the money, including the liquidation of the undertaking and the sale of its assets. […]

Services of General Economic Interest: Proper Definition and Avoidance of Overcompensation

Member States need to demonstrate that public service obligations imposed on undertakings are necessary and proportional to the need for public service. A change in the funding of public services does not constitute new aid if it does not alter its objectives, the beneficiaries or the amount of aid by more than 20%.   Introduction It is a well-established principle […]

The Private Investor Principle in Air Transport – Part II

Public funds managed by private airport operators can be classified as state resources. Prices charged by airport operators can be used as a benchmark for market prices only if their activities and size are comparable and their costs are not subsidised by State aid. Before a private investor enters into any commercial arrangement, it takes into account all relevant information, […]

The Private Investor Principle in Air Transport – Part I

Public funds managed by private airport operators can be classified as state resources. Prices charged by airport operators can be used as a benchmark for market prices only if their activities and size are comparable and their costs are not subsidised by State aid. Before a private investor enters into any commercial arrangement, it takes into account all relevant information, […]

Justification of a Tax Exemption

Prevention of excessive taxation may justify tax exemption. Prevention of abuse may justify limits to the tax exemption.   Introduction   A tax exemption may not constitute state aid if it is justified by reasons which are linked to the nature or general scheme of the tax system. This is what the Court of Justice said on 19 December 2018, […]

Infrastructure Projects, State Guarantees and Distortion of Competition

State guarantees must be limited in duration and amount and the conditions for their mobilization must be defined in advance. Public funding to an operator in a closed sector does not affect trade and, therefore, does not constitute State aid.   Introduction Large infrastructure projects are complex, encounter many unforeseen problems and often fall behind schedule for years. Consider, for […]

The Date and Scope of Public Service Compensation

Aid is deemed to be granted on the date the beneficiary undertaking acquires the legal right to it, regardless of whether it is actually paid on that date. It is not enough for a public authority to define the service that it wants an operator to provide and the price that it should charge. It must also define where and […]

The Challenge of Identifying the Reference Tax System: The Spanish Goodwill Case, Again

To determine whether an aid measure is selective, the treatment of the beneficiaries has to be compared to those undertakings which are in a comparable position.   Introduction   On 15 November 2018, the General Court ruled in case T-239/11, Sigma Alimentos Exterior v European Commission.1 Sigma Alimentos Exterior (SAE), a Spanish company, appealed against Commission decision 2011/282 which found that […]

The Recovery of Incompatible Aid Cannot be Absolutely Impossible Unless it is first Attempted

Introduction In its ruling of 6 November 2018 in cases C‑622/16 P to C‑624/16 P, Scuola Elementare Maria Montessori v European Commission, the Court of Justice made it harder for Member States to escape from their recovery obligations.[1] Montessori appealed against the judgment of the General Court in case T‑220/13, Scuola Elementare Maria Montessori v European Commission. That judgment was reviewed here on […]

Legal Standing of Investors in Failed Banks

Investors that lodge claims before national courts for damages from resolution of banks have legal standing to request annulment of Commission decisions authorising State aid to those banks. Introduction It is now ten years since the start of the financial crisis. In these ten years, the Commission has adopted about 500 decisions dealing with State aid to banks and other […]

State Aid Provisions in the Draft Agreement on the Withdrawal of the UK from the EU

The agreement on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU requires compliance with EU State aid rules.   Introduction   On 14 November 2018, EU and UK negotiators finalised the text of the Agreement on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU.[1] The Agreement has to be ratified by the UK and the other 27 Member States. Given immediate […]

Using the Correct Methodology to Calculate Public Service Compensation

Compensation for the extra costs of a public service obligation may include a reasonable profit that reflects the risk borne by the provider of the public service.   Introduction   The calculation of the amount of compensation for the extra costs of public service obligations can be difficult and tricky. In the absence of such calculation, aid to providers of […]

Unconditional and Unlimited Guarantees and their (In)Compatibility with the Internal Market

Operating aid is not normally compatible with the internal market. Therefore, State aid provided through state guarantees should not cover operating costs. State aid embedded in guarantees must be quantifiable so that its necessity and proportionality can be assessed. The assessment of State aid must be made within an EU context taking into account its impact on trade.   Introduction […]

Tax Inseparably Linked to State Aid

Taxes which are inseparably linked with an aid measure are assessed together with the aid itself.  An increase of the budget of an aid scheme by more than 20% constitutes a change of existing aid that must be notified to the Commission for prior authorisation.   Introduction Taxpayers may not refuse to pay taxes on the grounds that the tax […]

Public Service Obligations Must be Properly Defined and Selectivity Must be Proven [1]

Neither the existence of market failure, nor national laws that designate a service to be in the general interest can replace an official act that assigns to one or more undertakings clearly defined public service obligations.   Introduction The proper definition of public service obligations (PSOs) is an issue that arises with surprising regularity. It is surprising because numerous court […]

Unlimited State Guarantees

Unlimited state guarantees create a presumption that the recipient of the guarantee obtains an advantage in the form of cheaper credit. Any advantage in the form of lower risk in transactions with suppliers or clients has to be proven.   Introduction State guarantees must be limited in time and amount and may cover only a specified event. Unlimited and general […]

Ex ante Assessment of Future Profitability is Absolutely Necessary

A private investor assesses the prospects of future profitability before it invests. The burden of proof lies with the Member State that claims it has acted as a private investor.   Introduction The market economy investor principle is based on a simple premise: before you commit your money you need to check how much you are likely to get back. […]

The Compatibility of State Aid with the Internal Market: Lessons from “Hinkley Point C” – Part III

The objective of common interest that should be supported by State aid does not have to be an objective agreed by all Member States.   Environmental protection Austria argued that the Commission had ignored the potential negative effects of the aid on the environment such as the storing of nuclear waste. The reply of the Court was that “(516) in […]

The Compatibility of State Aid with the Internal Market: Lessons from “Hinkley Point C” – Part II

The objective of common interest that should be supported by state aid does not have to be an objective agreed by all Member States.   Existence of market failure and need for aid Austria and Luxembourg claimed that the intervention by the UK was not necessary and that there was no evidence that the liberalised market for the generation and […]

The Compatibility of State Aid with the Internal Market: Lessons from “Hinkley Point C” – Part I

The objective of common interest that should be supported by state aid does not have to be an objective agreed by all Member States.   Introduction On 12 July 2018, the General Court ruled in a complex case brought by Austria and Luxembourg against Commission decision 2015/658 which had authorised State aid for Hinkley Point C, a new nuclear power […]

Selectivity Can Exist at Different Levels: The Case of the Spanish Tax Lease System

transport ship
A tax measure may be selective in relation to both intermediate and final beneficiaries. An undertaking may enjoy a selective advantage even if it passes all tax benefits to other parties. Introduction A measure that is not selective at one level may be selective at another level and a measure that is selective at one level can also be selective […]

Public Procurement and State Aid

State aid does not have to be awarded on the basis of a competitive procedure, unless the relevant rules require it. Secondary legislation may allow Member States to make direct awards without a prior competitive procedure. Public procurement rules do not apply to awards between contracting authorities.   Introduction   Public procurement and State aid rules have the same basic […]

Public Service Compensation

Compensation for the provision of public services may not exceed the avoidable cost minus any forgone revenue from not having to provide those services. The VAT exemption for postal services is not State aid because it is laid down in the EU VAT directive and therefore cannot be attributed to Member States.     Introduction This article reviews Commission decision […]

The European Commission’s Code of Best Practices on State Aid Procedures

Closer cooperation between Commission services and Member States.   Introduction   The European Commission, DG Competition, published on 16 July 2018 on its website and then on 19 July 2018 in the Official Journal of the EU a Code of Best Practices for the Conduct of State Aid Control Procedures.[1]The purpose of the Code is to provide guidance to Member […]

State Aid Control in the UK after its Exit from the European Union

After its withdrawal from the EU, the UK is likely to maintain a State aid regime that is similar to that of the EU. Introduction   In seven months’ time, on 29 March 2019, the UK will leave the EU. But its withdrawal from the EU will not bring to an end compliance with EU rules. The UK is likely […]

The Compatibility of State Aid Depends on the Rules which are Applicable at the Time the Aid is Granted

Failure to comply with just a single provision of an exemption regulation results in the non-applicability of the whole regulation and makes any implemented aid measure automatically illegal. The compatibility of aid measures adopted in the past but continuing having effects are assessed not on the basis of old rules but on the basis of the rules which are applicable […]

The Definition of the Reference Tax System is still a Puzzle

A selective measure should be determined on the basis of its effects, not on the basis of the legally defined regulatory techniques.   Introduction A tax measure is selective in the meaning of Article 107(1) TFEU when it basically deviates from the normal tax system. In the case of a tax reduction or a tax exemption the normal system is […]

Danish Water Tax Exemption

A selective tax reduction does not constitute State aid if it does not confer an advantage that is proportionately larger than the magnitude of the tax reduction. A complete exemption of insignificant amounts of the taxable volume can be justified on the grounds of reducing administrative burden.     Introduction   Member States enjoy wide discretion to levy taxes on […]

The 2017 Annual Competition Report

Introduction   On 18 June 2018, the European Commission published its Annual Report on Competition Policy for 2017.[1] As usually, the Annual Report is accompanied by a Staff Working Paper that has almost four times as many pages as the Annual Report and provides more details on developments in all areas of competition policy, including State aid.  The pre-eminent role of […]

Revision of the GBER

Block exemption of new financial instruments.   Introduction   The Commission has recently published a proposal for amendment of Council Regulation 2015/1588[1] which authorises the Commission to adopt block exemption regulations. The purpose of the Commission’s proposal is to expand Article 1 of Regulation 2015/1588. This Article lists the categories of aid that may be declared compatible with the internal market.The […]

Remedying the Damage of a Natural Disaster through Incentives for New Investments

Damage from natural disasters can be remedied in the short-term through direct compensation or in the longer-term through investment subsidies to support new productive capacity.   Introduction   This article reviews a rather straightforward case which, however, is also quite unusual. It concerns a measure to remedy the effect of recent earthquakes in Italy. What makes it unusual is that […]

Sector-Specific Tax Exemptions

A measure that covers a whole sector can be selective. Distortions caused by the policies of other Member States cannot justify the granting of State aid. The purpose of State aid is not to ensure equal conditions of competition across Member States. Introduction On 31 May 2018, the General Court ruled in case T-160/16, Groningen Seaports v European Commission.[1] Groningen Seaports […]

State Aid for the Deployment of Broadband Networks

Most State aid for the development of broadband networks is approved by the Commission. But the aid must be limited only to areas where market-based investments are unlikely to be made without aid.   Introduction   This article reviews a recent Commission decision authorising State aid for broadband development in the Netherlands which is one of the most networked countries […]

The Extent of the Discretion of Member States to Define Services of General Economic Interest (SGEI)

A service is classified as an SGEI not only when it is important for citizens but also when the market does not adequately supply it and one or more undertakings are compelled to provide it to specified consumers, in specified areas and on specified terms.   Introduction   The Treaty on the Functioning of the EU and the case law […]

Exemptions from Product-Specific Taxes

Tax exemptions do not constitute State aid when they aim to induce change in the behaviour of consumers, when they distinguish between harmful products and non-harmful products and for reasons of administrative simplicity.   Introduction   In the past two weeks, an article was published in two parts criticising the judgments of the Court of Justice in three cases of […]

Exemption from Taxes that Protect the Environment May not be Selective – Part II

Member States have discretion to impose taxes that penalise environmentally harmful activities. Exemption of undertakings whose activities do not harm the environment does not constitute State aid whenever the exempted undertakings are not in a comparable situation.   Application of Article 107(1) to the Asturias tax   In this case, exempted establishments were those with sales area less than 4000m2 or […]

Exemption from Taxes that Protect the Environment May not be Selective – Part I

Member States have discretion to impose taxes that penalise environmentally harmful activities. Exemption of undertakings whose activities do not harm the environment does not constitute State aid whenever the exempted undertakings are not in a comparable situation.   Application of Article 107(1) to the Asturias tax   In this case, exempted establishments were those with sales area less than 4000m2 or […]

Dealing with Problematic Banks

The sale of a bank through a fair, open, competitive and transparent procedure that maximises the value of the assets and liabilities is free of State aid.   Introduction This week’s article returns to the theme of State aid to banks and examines a case of “precautionary” recapitalisation and a case of sale of a bank, that was linked to […]

Compensation for Public Service Obligations

Compensation for public service obligations may be fixed at less than the net extra costs of the provider of the public service to induce it to become more efficient.   Introduction   Every three years the UK determines the compensation it provides to the Post Office Limited (POL) for the extra costs of the public services it provides. Commission decision […]

Liquidity Support to Banks

Banks that receive State aid are considered to be failing banks, except when the aid is granted to solvent banks for the purpose of precautionary recapitalisation or temporary liquidity. Introduction   During the past decade, large amounts of public funds have been committed to shore up failing or illiquid banks. Under current banking rules, the mere fact that a bank […]

Complaints about Billboards and Welfare Services

A regulatory measure may affect competition but it does not constitute State aid. Administrative changes to existing aid measures do not result in new State aid.   Introduction This article reviews two Commission decisions: one concerning a Czech regulatory measure and another concerning existing aid to German social organisations. Both decisions dealt with complaints about alleged illegal State aid.   […]

What Makes a Public Health Care System Non-economic?

Health services are not economic in nature when they are funded by the state through taxation, they are provided for free or at a nominal fee which is the same for all patients and they are available to all citizens on a universal basis and on the same terms. Introduction   After the judgment of the General Court of 5 […]

Advantage through Contracts

A price below the regulated normal price confers an advantage. Competition is distorted even when the aid recipient does not expand its operations. Introduction An undertaking can obtain an advantage without receiving an outright grant. The advantage may be hidden in a contract for the supply of an essential input at reduced prices. This is the issue tackled by the […]

Correct Pricing for the Use of Publicly Funded Infrastructure

Publicly funded infrastructure must be made available to users at prices that correspond to its market value. Introduction   When publicly-funded infrastructure is placed at the disposal of an undertaking, that undertaking must pay a market price, otherwise it derives an advantage in the meaning of Article 107(1) TFEU. But what is the market price? Is it the price charged […]

Private Creditor v Private Investor

A private investor never agrees to an unprofitable transaction while a private creditor may agree to a loss in order to avoid a bigger loss from non-recovery of debt owed to it. A public authority acting as a private operator must disregard any losses it may incur from State aid it granted in the past. Introduction   A question that […]

What Is and What Is not Export Aid

The prohibition of export aid prevents distortions in the internal market. Therefore, it cannot be considered as restricting intra-EU trade. Aid is classified as export aid only if it has a direct impact on exports. The incidental and indirect effect on exports of investment aid is not sufficient to categorise it as export aid.   Introduction On 28 February 2018, […]

State Aid for R&D

A large amount of State aid can still be compatible with the internal market if it meets all of the requirements of the RDI Framework.   Introduction   Since the coming into force of the GBER, only very few cases of R&D have been notified to the Commission. This means that it is not so obvious how the State aid […]

Economic Activities in a System of Social Solidarity

Entities that pursue profit must be classified as undertakings. Introduction   On 5 February 2018, the General Court annulled Commission decision 2015/248 concerning health insurance in Slovakia [see judgment in case T‑216/15, Dôvera zdravotná poist’ovňa et al v European Commission].[1] The Commission decision was reviewed here on 10 March 2015.(View article at http://stateaidhub.eu/blogs/stateaiduncovered/post/1707.)The Commission had concluded that the providers of health insurance […]

What Happens when Things Go Wrong

Only EU institutions can provide assurances that aid is granted legally. The amount of State aid in a state guarantee given to a company in difficulty can be equal to the amount of the guaranteed loan. The simultaneity of public and private investments is not enough to ensure that the public investment is at market terms. They must also be […]

Investment in Airport Infrastructure

Public funding of infrastructure used for non-economic purposes does not constitute State aid. Public investment in infrastructure used for economic purposes does not constitute State aid if the investment can generate a return that is acceptable to a private investor.   Introduction   On 25 January 2018, the General Court ruled in case T-818/14, Brussels South Charleroi Airport v Commission.[1] Brussels […]

How a Private Investor Behaves: EDF v Commission

A private investor carries out an assessment of the prospective profitability of a company before it invests in it. Ex post assessment is not sufficient. Evidence that the investment is likely to be profitable is not enough. The return must be high enough to satisfy a private investor in a similar situation (by compensating it for the risk it assumes). […]

The Puzzle of the State Acting as a Regulator

When the state exercises its regulatory tasks, it does not have to demand fees and therefore it does not forgo potential state resources. Introduction A few weeks ago the Commission considered whether the regulatory actions of the state fell within the scope of Article 107(1) TFEU. In decision SA.42028 concerning aid to Yliopiston Apteekki Oy in Finland, the Commission examined […]

Danish Horse Racing

Taxes hypothecated to State aid measures fall within the scope of the assessment of the compatibility of those measures.   Introduction Operating aid is not normally allowed. Yet, in decision SA.48604 concerning horse-racing betting in Denmark the Commission appears to have authorised operating aid.[1] This measure was approved within six months. In the post-SAM, it must be one of the […]

Selectivity Requires Comparison

To determine whether a measure is selective it is necessary to compare the beneficiary companies to other companies which are in a similar situation and determine whether the latter receive the same advantage. Introduction[1]   On 20 December 2017, the Court of Justice delivered three judgments in appeals against rulings of the General Court concerning the expansion of digital terrestrial television […]

Structural Disadvantages and Regional Aid

Aid that seeks to neutralise a structural disadvantage still confers an advantage. Aid that seeks to remedy market failure is selective. State aid that is compatible with the internal market must be necessary to achieve an objective of the Treaty and be capable of incentivising a change in the behaviour of the recipient undertakings.   Introduction On 13 December 2017, […]

PART II: Concessions and State Aid: Does the State Act as a Regulator or Market Operator?

When Member States act as regulators they need not maximise revenue from the granting of concessions rights. When Member States act as regulators they must grant concession rights on the basis of procedures which are competitive, transparent, non-discriminatory and unconditional.   Part II: Public procurement principles[1] Principles for selection of concession holders The Commission examined also, in addition to the […]

Court’s Diary – January 2018

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Find below the court’s diary for all State aid cases this month. Would you like to write a comment on one of them? Please don’t hesitate and get in touch with us (stateaidhub@lexxion.eu), we are happy to publish your comment on the blog.   Tuesday 16/01/2018 Judgment in case T-747/15 – EDF v Commission (General Court – Third Chamber) Wednesday 17/01/2018 Judgment […]

Top 5 State Aid Uncovered Posts in 2017

Questions around grants for R&D&I projects, economic activities of religious establishments or concession agreements besides many more, have moved and shaped this year’s judgments on State aid. Also Brexit and its meaning for State aid control in the UK has been on everyone’s mind. See which articles by Prof. Phedon Nicolaides were the most popular ones in 2017. We have […]

PART I: Concessions and State Aid: Does the State Act as a Regulator or Market Operator?

When Member States act as regulators they need not maximise revenue from the granting of concessions rights. When Member States act as regulators they must grant concession rights on the basis of procedures which are competitive, transparent, non-discriminatory and unconditional. Introduction   Is it possible for a public authority to grant State aid through a defective procurement procedure? The answer […]

Sport and Trade

State aid has a purely local impact when i) the beneficiaries supply goods or services to a limited area within a Member State, ii) they are unlikely to attract customers from other Member States and iii) there is no inducement for cross-border investment or establishment.   Introduction The article this week continues with the theme of affectation of trade that […]

How to Determine whether State Aid Affects Trade

Article 107(1) requires the assessment of both the direct and indirect impact of a public measure on cross-border trade. The direct impact is the effect on the cross-border movement of products or customers of the aid recipient or of its competitors. The indirect impact is the effect on the cross-border movement of the aid recipient itself or its competitors.   […]

Imputability of an Aid Measure to the State Does not Require a Counterfactual

The fact that the state owns an undertaking is not enough to prove that the decisions of that undertaking can be attributed to the state. However, it is sufficient that the state was involved in the particular decision that transferred state resources for the benefit of another undertaking.   Introduction Several recent articles on this blog have examined the concept […]

The Legal Basis of the (In)compatibility of Aid Must be Clear

The European Commission may withdraw a decision, but before it adopts a new decision it must give an opportunity to interested parties to submit their comments, especially, if it changes the legal basis of the assessment of the compatibility of the aid.   Introduction The most frequent reasons for which the Commission finds aid to be incompatible with the internal […]

i) Transfer of State Resources, ii) Non-recovery of Incompatible Aid, iii) Primacy of Agricultural Policy over Competition Policy

Private resources that come under the control of a public authority become state resources. The only defence for not recovering incompatible aid is absolute impossibility. Agricultural policy objectives take precedence over those of competition policy. Introduction This article reviews a case involving transfer of state resources and a case concerning failure to recovery of incompatible State aid. It also draws […]

Existing v New Aid

Any alteration of an existing aid measure can affect the substance of the measure itself. A deviation from the conditions of authorisation may turn existing aid into new aid. Alteration or deviation from the conditions of authorisation that affect the compatibility of an existing aid measure, can result in the granting of new aid. A Member State that alters an […]

Indirect v Secondary Effects of State Aid

The prohibition of State aid in Article 107(1) of the Treaty applies both to the direct and indirect beneficiaries of aid. The direct and indirect beneficiaries are those who are intentionally targeted by the aid. Secondary effects are benefits which are inherent in an aid measure and which are not targeted at specific undertakings.   Introduction Public funding for the […]

Activities Linked to State Prerogatives

Economic activities which cannot be separated from the exercise of public powers cease to be economic in nature.   Introduction The dividing line between economic and non-economic activities is in a permanent state of flux. Although it is now clear that some activities fall within the powers and prerogatives of the state, while many others are carried out by the […]

Private Creditor Test

The Commission must apply the private creditor test even if a Member State does not request it or believes that it is not relevant.   Introduction Private investors always have two options: to invest or not to invest. They choose the option that generates the largest amount of profit or revenue. Similarly, private creditors also have two options: call in […]

State Resources and Imputability

When the state acts in its capacity as legislator it is not presumed to direct the resources of undertakings it owns and over which it can exercise dominant influence as a shareholder. Introduction On 13 September 2017, the Court of Justice replied to a request from a national court to advise it on the concept of state resources [case C‑329/15, […]

Pitfalls in the Use of De Minimis Aid

Calculating de minimis aid according to the average amount of aid received by undertakings is wrong. Introduction It appears that all Member States grant de minimis aid, even though some tend to grant it more easily than others. De minimis aid can be used to subsidise any costs, including those which are not eligible under other State aid rules. The […]

The Necessity and Proportionality of Regional Aid

The Commission must open the formal investigation procedure when it has serious doubts about the compatibility of State aid. The aid that is necessary to induce a company to locate its investment in an assisted region is the amount that covers the difference in costs between the assisted region and the best alternative location. This amount is also proportional.   […]

Odysseus and the Sirens: A Rational Market Operator Can Agree to be Bound by the Ruling of an Arbitration Tribunal

A rational market operator can agree to arbitration if there is no reasonable prospect of a better outcome. However, a rational operator would ensure that the terms according to which an arbitration decision can be taken would be defined in advance and would not be prejudicial to the operator.   Introduction Is it rational for a market operator to agree […]

Calculating the Amount of State Aid in a 100% Public Guarantee

The proxy rates in the Commission Notice on Guarantees cannot be used in cases of state guarantees that cover 100% of the underlying loans.   Introduction Last week’s article reviewed the terms of the operation of regional airports in Greece. (View it here). This week’s article continues with the theme of management of public infrastructure and examines Commission decision SA.42545 on […]

Concession Agreements Free of State Aid

Awards of concession contracts should follow a procedure which is open, transparent, non-discriminatory and unconditional. Prices may be regulated to prevent excessive prices and profits. But, the concession fee may be adjusted to enable the concessionaire to earn a sufficient return.   Introduction This article examines the link between State aid and concession agreements. In decision SA.44259, the Commission considered […]

Sale, Liquidation and Other Options for Private Investors

A private investor chooses the less costly option between selling a company at a loss and liquidating it. In addition to avoiding losses, a private investor also cares for its image, quantifies its value and factors it in the sale or liquidation option.   Introduction On 6 July 2017, the General Court ruled in two closely related cases: T-74/14, France […]

Bank Recapitalisation that Conforms to the Market Economy Investor Principle

A public authority acts like a private investor when it injects capital in a stricken bank if there is a realistic prospect of sufficient return that compensates it for the risk it bears.   Introduction Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD) is the largest bank in Portugal and is now fully owned by the State. In June 2012, Portugal notified to […]

15th Jubilee Feature – State Aid Experts Paying Court to EStAL: Alexander Rose

estal alexander rose
Since 2002 Lexxion Publisher’s European State Aid Law Quarterly – EStAL serves as a forum for dialogue and deliberation on all issues related to State aid. On the occasion of our 15th anniversary special feature we have gathered our State aid family to reflect upon their joint journey together with our precious EStAL and of course our favourite topic State […]

State Aid Is Not Compatible With the Internal Market when it Contravenes other EU Rules

Relief from a penalty imposed by EU rules is State aid that is incompatible with the internal market.   Introduction EU rules contain a standard exclusion: State aid cannot be declared compatible with the internal market when it is non-severable [i.e. cannot be separated] from a violation of EU law. Yet, cases involving non-severable violations of EU law are rare. […]

Exceptions to the Exceptional Nature of State Aid for Banks

State aid for banks can be granted without triggering resolution in cases of precautionary recapitalisation and liquidation.   Introduction A primary objective of the European response to the financial crisis was to sever the link between troubled banks and indebted sovereign. The principle now is that if a bank needs money to meet the capital adequacy ratio required by banking […]

15th Jubilee Feature – State Aid Experts Paying Court to EStAL: Mihalis Kekelekis

EStAL Mihalis Kekelekis
Since 2002 Lexxion Publisher’s European State Aid Law Quarterly – EStAL serves as a forum for dialogue and deliberation on all issues related to State aid. On the occasion of our 15th anniversary special feature we have gathered our State aid family to reflect upon their joint journey together with our precious EStAL and of course our favourite topic State […]

Sale of State-Owned Bank

The sale of a public asset is free of State aid when it is open, transparent, non-discriminatory, unconditional and the award is made to the highest binding and credible offer.   Introduction The rules on State aid to financial institutions and banks have become very strict. Owners and creditors have to be bailed in [the so-called burden sharing] and the […]

Collective Insolvency and the GBER

The eligibility of an aid applicant and the legality of the aid are determined at the point when the aid is granted. If afterwards the aid recipient ceases to be an SME or enters in financial difficulties it is not a relevant issue.   Introduction When Member States grant aid on the basis of the General Block Exemption Regulation [Regulation […]

15th Jubilee Feature – State Aid Experts Paying Court to EStAL: Birgit Haslinger

estal Birgit Haslinger
Since 2002 Lexxion Publisher’s European State Aid Law Quarterly – EStAL serves as a forum for dialogue and deliberation on all issues related to State aid. On the occasion of our 15th anniversary special feature we have gathered our State aid family to reflect upon their joint journey together with our precious EStAL and of course our favourite topic State […]

Even the Catholic Church Is not Absolved from State Aid Rules: The Essence of Economic Activity – PART II

Purely religious activities and education funded by the state are not economic in nature.   Read the I. part of the article, here. Selective economic advantage The Court proceeded to examine the possible existence of a selective economic advantage. It first recalled, in paragraph 65, that the concept of State aid covers only those public measures which favour certain undertakings “or” […]

Transfer of Trademarks

The free transfer of a trademark that belongs to the state confers two possible advantages to the new owner if there is a market for that trademark.   Introduction When a public authority places at the disposal of an undertaking a public asset, it confers to that undertaking a competitive advantage. The competitive advantage is eliminated whenever that public authority […]

Even the Catholic Church Is not Absolved from State Aid Rules: The Essence of Economic Activity – PART I

Purely religious activities and education funded by the state are not economic in nature. Introduction On 27 June 2017 the Court of Justice ruled in case C‑74/16, Congregación de Escuelas Pías Provincia Betania v Ayuntamiento de Getafe.[1] The ruling was in response to a request from a Spanish administrative court dealing with a tax dispute between religious schools and the municipality of […]

15th Jubilee Feature – State Aid Experts Paying Court to EStAL: Ilkka Aalto-Setälä

estal Ilkka Aaalto-Setälä
Since 2002 Lexxion Publisher’s European State Aid Law Quarterly – EStAL serves as a forum for dialogue and deliberation on all issues related to State aid. On the occasion of our 15th anniversary special feature we have gathered our State aid family to reflect upon their joint journey together with our precious EStAL and of course our favourite topic State […]

Imputability to the State

State resources and imputability or attribution to the state are two distinct concepts. They must both be satisfied in order for a measure to constitute State aid. Introduction Several Member States have set up “promotional” banks or national development banks. Some of these promotional banks pursue only public policy objectives by channelling cheap funds to SMEs. Some others provide funding […]

Is there any Advantage for Owners, Operators or Users of Publicly Funded Ports?

Public funding of ports confers an advantage to their owners, but not for operators chosen competitively or users who pay a market price.   Introduction Few issues have exercised public authorities more than the funding of infrastructure which is used for commercial purposes. This is because State aid may benefit the owner and/or the operator and/or the users of the […]

15th Jubilee Feature – State Aid Experts Paying Court to EStAL: Sara Gobbato

estal sara gobbato
Since 2002 Lexxion Publisher’s European State Aid Law Quarterly – EStAL serves as a forum for dialogue and deliberation on all issues related to State aid. On the occasion of our 15th anniversary special feature we have gathered our State aid family to reflect upon their joint journey together with our precious EStAL and of course our favourite topic State […]

The Effectiveness of Clear Guidance: The Case of Broadband Networks

This blog examines how much aid goes to support broadband networks and what lessons can be drawn from the Commission’s decisional practice.   Introduction A principal objective of the State Aid Modernisation was to free Commission resources from the time-consuming task of checking the conformity of routine measures of State aid. Consequently, the General Block Exemption Regulation was extended to […]

State Resources criteria in the spotlight once again: Comments on the Opinion of the Advocate General in case C-329/15 ENEA SA w Poznaniu v Prezes Urzędu Regulacji Energetyki

Today we are glad to welcome Nevin Alija to the State Aid Blog. She is a PhD Candidate at the Católica Research Center for the Future of Law of the Católica Global School of Law, Universidade Católica Portuguesa. In this blog post she examines case C-329/15 ENEA SA w Poznaniu v Prezes Urzędu Regulacji Energetyki. Thank you, Nevin, for sharing […]

A Regional Aid Scheme with an Ex-Post Evaluation Plan

Aid must be capable of remedying the regional handicap.   Introduction A novel aspect of the 2014 State Aid Modernisation was the requirement for ex-post evaluation of large or unusual State aid measures. The purpose of the ex-post evaluation is to determine the effectiveness of State aid. The outcome of the evaluation does not affect the legality of the aid. […]

Transfer of State Assets between State-Owned Companies

Transfers of public assets for the purpose of extinguishing debt have to be valued according to private creditor principle. Transfers of public assets that involve State aid must be notified to the Commission.   Introduction Sale or transfer of state assets is a tricky process. A possible undervaluation of the assets results in State aid for the benefit of the […]

15th Jubilee Feature – State Aid Experts Paying Court to EStAL: Thomas Jaeger

Since 2002 Lexxion Publisher’s European State Aid Law Quarterly – EStAL serves as a forum for dialogue and deliberation on all issues related to State aid. On the occasion of our 15th anniversary special feature we have gathered our State aid family to reflect upon their joint journey together with our precious EStAL and of course our favourite topic State […]

The Art, Science and Law of Funding Services of General Economic Interest

The compulsory nature of an assigned public mission makes the services covered by the mission different from those provided by market operators for profit.   Introduction The justification of government intervention for the purpose of ensuring delivery of adequate services of general economic interest [SGEI] and the design of measures that compensate providers of SGEI can be very tricky. This […]

What Costs Are Charged by Public Authorities when they Act as Market Operators?

Fees charged by operators to users of infrastructure must cover all relevant costs. The relevant costs are those which are causally linked to the agreements between users and operators. Introduction The rules in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union are neutral in their treatment of private or state-owned companies [Article 345 TFEU]. This means that companies cannot […]

Regional Investment Aid and Sale of Land

A company that applies for State aid is considered to acquire a right to that aid when assurances it has received from the granting authority can be enforced in court. The price of land can be reduced by the cost that a new owner would expend to make the land usable.   Introduction In decision SA.40448, the Commission assessed aid […]

Bank Resolution Has to Comply with State Aid Rules as well as the Banking Recovery and Resolution Directive

Insurance funds contributed by banks become state resources if they are managed by public agencies. Sale of non-performing loans at market prices does not involve State aid.   Introduction Since 1 January 2016, the resolution financial institutions in Europe has been subject to stricter rules. The institutions which are established in the Eurozone fall with the jurisdiction of the Single […]

Identification of the Reference Tax System: The Case of a Tax on Advertising Turnover

Turnover taxes should be levied at a single rate. Introduction This is the fourth case involving turnover taxes that have been declared to be incompatible with the internal market [see Commission decision 2017/329].[1] A brief summary was published here on 13 December 2016 [http://stateaidhub.eu/blogs/stateaiduncovered/post/7697]. The reasoning of the Commission follows closely that of the other cases. However, what makes this case […]

Court’s Diary – May 2017

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Find below the court’s diary for all State aid cases this month. Would you like to write a comment on one of them? Please don’t hesitate and get in touch with us (stateaidhub@lexxion.eu), we are happy to publish your comment on the blog.   Thursday 18/05/2017 Judgment in case C-150/16 – Fondul Proprietatea vs Complexul Energetic Oltenia SA (Court of Justice – Fifth Chamber) […]

A Postscript on Brexit and State Aid

A short note on the previous blog post on State aid control in the UK after its withdrawal from the EU.   A few weeks ago, I wrote an article on State aid control in the UK after its withdrawal from the European Union [http://stateaidhub.eu/blogs/stateaiduncovered/post/8330]. In that article I suggested that the UK would maintain the same or a similar […]

Public Support for Nature Conservation is not State Aid

A nominal price may be charged for genuine non-economic services as long as it supports the achievement of the non-economic objective and covers only a small part of total costs.   Introduction Germany notified two measures of support for nature conservation in Saxony-Anhalt. Measure 1 [SA.45645] concerned projects of nature conservation and landscape maintenance.[1] Measure 2 [SA.46073] concerned aid to associations […]

Ex Post Definition of the Method of Compensation Makes State Aid Incompatible with the Internal Market

Compliance with public service obligations imposed on a provider of services of general economic interest should not be left to the discretion of that provider.   Introduction Last week’s article examined a public service obligation for providing maritime links to Corsica (view it here: http://stateaidhub.eu/blogs/stateaiduncovered/post/8370). This week’s article reviews a similar obligation for maritime links to the neighbouring island of Sardinia. […]

The Need for Public Services Is Shown by Absence of Private Services

The scope of public service obligations must be proportional to the identified market failure.   Introduction On 1 March 2017, the General Court dismissed the application of Societe Nationale Maritime Corse Mediterranee [SNCM] against the Commission [case T-454/13, SNCM v Commission].[1] The Commission had found in decision 2013/435 that SNCM received incompatible State aid that had to be recovered. SNCM carried […]

State Aid on the Day after the Exit of the UK from the EU

The UK will “take back control” over State aid. With it will come the challenge of following EU law and practice. Introduction Last June I wrote an article on how the withdrawal of the UK from the EU could affect the application of State aid rules in the UK. The article concluded with the following prediction. “The UK will soon […]

Court’s Diary – April 2017

Find below the court’s diary for all State aid cases this month. Would you like to write a comment on one of them? Please don’t hesitate and get in touch with us (stateaidhub@lexxion.eu), we are happy to publish your comment on the blog.   Thursday 06/04/2017 Order in case T-101/16 – Klausner Holz Niedersachsen GmbH v European Commission (General Court – Second […]

Altmark Requires Efficiency; Article 106(2) TFEU Does Not!

The provider of a service of general economic interest does not have to be more efficient than the “typical undertaking” in its sector.   Introduction   On 8 March 2017, the Court of Justice rendered its judgment in case C‑660/15 P Viasat Broadcasting v European Commission.[1] Viasat Broadcasting appealed against the judgment of the General Court of 24 September 2015 in […]

Support for Illiquid but Solvent Banks

State aid may be granted to solvent banks which face temporary liquidity difficulties.     Introduction State aid rules have their own logic and are applied independently of other policy areas. However, in certain situations, the Commission enforces State aid rules in conjunction with linked provisions in other fields. A typical example is taxes levied on agricultural products to raise […]

PART II: Ex Ante Assessment and Ex Post Evaluation of Risk Finance Measures

A well-designed State aid measure is preceded by a rigorous ex ante study that identifies market failure. The objectives of a well-designed measure address directly the nature and magnitude of the identified market failure. Read PART I: Ex Ante Assessment and Ex Post Evaluation of Risk Finance Measures from 7 March 2017. Ex Post Evaluation Plan Ex post evaluation focuses on i) […]

State Aid is on the Agenda: Deal or No Deal

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With great pleasure we welcome again Professor Erika Szyszczak to our blog. Erika is a Research Professor in Law and a Fellow of the UK Trade Policy Observatory. She is currently the Special Adviser to the House of Lords Internal Market Sub-Committee in respect of its inquiry into Brexit: competition. She is the author of The Regulation of the State […]

PART I: Ex Ante Assessment and Ex Post Evaluation of Risk Finance Measures

A well-designed State aid measure is preceded by a rigorous ex ante study that identifies market failure. The objectives of a well-designed measure address directly the nature and magnitude of the identified market failure.   Introduction The European Commission has approved, with decision SA.40991, amendments to two existing aid measures: Enterprise Investment Scheme [EIS] and Venture Capital Trust [VCT] in […]

Court’s Diary – March 2017

Find below the court’s diary for all State aid cases this month. Would you like to write a comment on one of them? Please don’t hesitate and get in touch with us (stateaidhub@lexxion.eu), we are happy to publish your comment on the blog.   Wednesday 01/03/2017Judgment in Case T-167/14 – France v Commission (General Court – Sixth Chamber)Judgment in Case T-454/13 – SNCM v […]

State Aid for R&D: What Is Research?

Adapting know-how for the needs of clients is not research. Aid for projects for which there is no demand is not in the common interest.   Introduction The purpose of research is to discover something new. But what is often difficult to define for public authorities that wish to stimulate more research activities is how new must be the outcome […]

State Aid for R&D: How Intermediaries Pass on Aid to Third Parties

Operators of research infrastructure do not benefit from State aid, if they fully pass on the aid to the users of the infrastructure. The amount of aid must be quantified. Introduction The beneficiaries of State aid to support R&D are normally those who carry out research. However, in the case of aid to research infrastructure there may be two categories […]

How to Calculate a Transparent Amount of State Aid in Public Guarantees

State aid granted in the form of public guarantees is transparent aid when it is calculated according to the methodology of the 2008 Commission notice or a methodology that is notified to and approved by the Commission.   Introduction Aid to farmers, small enterprises or revenue-generating projects is often given in the form of state guarantees. This is because what […]

The Scope of Public Service Obligations

Public service obligations may cover both profitable and unprofitable segments of the market.   Introduction 18 January 2017, the General Court delivered its judgment in case T-92/11 RENV, Jørgen Andersen, v European Commission.[1] Mr Andersen appealed against Commission Decision 2011/3 which concluded that public service contracts between the Danish Ministry of Transport and Danske Statsbaner [DSB], the incumbent train operator, contained […]

Financial Cooperatives

National courts may not question Commission decisions but they may ask the Court of Justice for guidance on how to interpret Commission decisions. Protection of shareholders of a particular category of companies is a selective measure. Introduction This is the last article dealing with the judgments that were rendered by EU courts on 21 December 2016. This article reviews the reply […]

Selectivity Stretched

Derogations that result in different tax treatment are selective measures. Introduction On 21 December 2016, the Commission achieved an important legal victory when the Court of Justice found in its favour in the judgment in joint cases C‑20/15 P and C‑21/15 P, Commission v World Duty Free Group [formerly Autogrill España] and Commission v Banco Santander, respectively.[1] The Commission appealed […]

Part II: Developments on the Concepts of Advantage and Selectivity

The advantage conferred by State aid is not necessarily equivalent to the economic benefit that is eventually enjoyed by aid recipients. Incompatible State aid has to be repaid regardless of whether it is passed on to the customers of the aid recipients. Undertakings derive an advantage when state intervention reduces the costs they would bear under “normal market conditions” whereby […]

Developments on the Concepts of Advantage and Selectivity

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The advantage conferred by State aid is not necessarily equivalent to the economic benefit that is eventually enjoyed by aid recipients. Incompatible State aid has to be repaid regardless of whether it is passed on to the customers of the aid recipients. Undertakings derive an advantage when state intervention reduces the costs they would bear under “normal market conditions” whereby […]

Top 3 State Aid Blog Posts from 2016

From remarks on the Commission Notice on the Notion of State aid over to the right of access and State aid procedures, our guest bloggers on the StateAidHub have shed light on various controversial State aid judgments and developments. View now the most popular posts of 2016.   With the end of 2016, we thank not only Prof Phedon Nicolaides […]

Public Service Obligations and Award for Damages

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Providers of public services must keep separate accounts. The parameters for calculating the compensation for the extra costs of public services must be determined in advance. Awards for damages do not constitute State aid. However, no damages can be awarded as a substitute for incompatible State aid.   Introduction It is often asked how compensation measures for public service obligations […]

Funding of the Spanish Public Broadcaster and Hypothecation of Taxes

Tax payers have grounds to object to a tax on the basis of Article 107(1) TFEU only when the tax is “asymmetrical” or when it is “hypothecated” to an aid measure.   Introduction On 10 November 2016, the Court of Justice ruled in case C‑449/14 P, DTS v European Commission.[1] DTS, a Spanish television company, appealed against the judgment of the General […]

5 most read articles by Phedon Nicolaides in 2016

Questions around selectivity of tax measures, the private creditor test, the new Commission Notice on the Notion of State Aid and many more have moved and shaped this year’s judgments on State aid. See which articles by Prof. Phedon Nicolaides were the most popular ones in 2016. We have also started an exciting new journey of State aid videos on […]

Existing v New Aid and Role of National Courts

Modification of an existing aid measure turns it into a new aid measure if it affects its compatibility with the internal market. National courts must also notify to the Commission any new aid measure they detect.   Introduction On 26 October 2016, the Court of Justice ruled in case C‑590/14 P, DEI v Commission.[1] DEI, the incumbent electricity producer in Greece appealed against […]

Ever wondered how Lexxion Seminars are like? Read this Summary of “State Aid in Tax Measures”

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The following is a summary of the main points that were presented and the issues that were discussed in the seminar on State Aid in Tax Measures that was held by Lexxion in Brussels on 7-8 November 2016. The summary has been prepared for information purposes only and it is not meant to be a precise record of the proceedings […]

Hungarian Advertisement Tax, Polish Retail Tax and Estonia Package Tax

Progressive taxes can constitute State aid. Exemption from a packaging tax of packaged goods which are taken abroad is within the logic of the tax system.   Introduction This article reviews three tax measures which levied taxes on specific activities and products. In particular, they concern taxes on advertising, retail sales and an exemption from a tax on product packaging. […]

Pensions, Public Statements and Private Investors

The normal costs of an undertaking include all the costs of compliance with the obligations imposed by law. A private investor takes into account all the relevant information at the point in time it decides to invest.     Introduction This article reviews two court judgments both of which concern Orange, the French incumbent telecoms operator. The first judgment finds […]

Media Plurality in Denmark

State aid measures need not be open to all undertakings.   Introduction On 11 October 2016, the General Court rendered its judgment in case T-167/14, TSøndagsavisen v Commission.[1] Søndagsavisen requested annulment of Commission decision SA.36366 on a measure that had been notified by Denmark. The purpose of the measure was to support production and innovation in the newspaper and magazine sector […]

No Affectation of Trade

Public subsidies that do not affect cross-border trade either directly or indirectly do not constitute State aid in the meaning of Article 107(1). The direct trade effect is the impact on customers or users. The indirect trade effect is the impact on potential market entrants.   Introduction In April 2015, the Commission surprised us with seven decisions that concluded that […]

Private Investor v Private Creditor

When the state, acting as a private investor, seeks to recover past public investments, it must aim to maximise the recoverable amount. However, public funds that were granted as State aid must be ignored when the recoverable amount of past investments is calculated.   Introduction On 15 September 2016, the General Court rendered its judgment in case T‑386/14, FIH Holding v […]

1) Selectivity of Health Tests 2) Existing v New Aid in Preferential Electricity Tariffs

A measure can be selective even if it applies to a whole sector. An existing aid measure becomes new when a court extends it temporarily.   Introduction This article reviews two judgments: one on BSE tests in Belgium and another on preferential electricity tariffs in Greece. The issue at hand with respect to the BSE test was whether a measure […]

Turnover Taxes Can be Incompatible with the Internal Market

Progressive taxes levied on turnover can provide State aid that is incompatible with the internal market. Flat turnover taxes are proportional and therefore likely to be free of State aid.   Introduction Hungary wanted to levy two types of turnover taxes whose purpose was to protect health. The first tax was levied on tobacco products.[1] The Commission found, in decision 2016/1846, […]

Belgium’s Alternative Tax Regime for the Diamond Sector

Alternative tax regimes do not provide State aid as long as they raise the amount of tax paid and they are justified by the nature or general scheme of the normal system of taxation.   Introduction During the past three years, the Commission has been pursuing multinational companies that pay too little tax. Its main objection to the tax treatment […]

Right of Access and State Aid Procedures: a Look at the General Presumption of Confidentiality and the Overriding Public Interest in Case C-271/15, Sea Handling v Commission

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Today we are glad to welcome Dr. Gherardo Carullo, research fellow and Ph.D. in law at University of Milan, LL.M. (King’s College London), to our State Aid Blog. He specialises in public law, from a national and European perspective, and in particular in State intervention in the markets, both in his academic studies and in the legal profession. In this […]

Compliance with State Aid Rules in Cohesion Policy: A Special Report of the European Court of Auditors

Control of State aid by national authorities needs to be strengthened. Typical mistake is to grant aid after a project has started or to subsidise ineligible costs. Aid measures for risk capital, SGEI and R&D appear to be particularly prone to error.  Introduction On 4 October 2016, the European Court of Auditors [ECA] published a special report 24/2016 on enforcement […]

Non-economic Activities, Absolute Impossibility to Recover Incompatible Aid and the Powers of National Courts

This article reviews three judgments that were all rendered on 15 September 2016. The first two concern the concept of economic activity. The third is about the rights of national courts to consider the correctness of Commission decisions. The Court of Justice has said clearly that national courts may not question Commission decisions.   Economic activity The first two cases […]

Compensation for the Extra Costs Imposed by Law

When the state imposes obligations which create extra costs for a single undertaking, that undertaking suffers a disadvantage in relation to its competitors. The extra costs are abnormal because normal costs are those borne by all competitors. Introduction On 14 July 2016, the General Court rendered its judgment in case T 143/12, Germany v Commission.1 The outcome was a victory for […]

Article 263(4) TFEU: Third Party Challenges to State Aid Decisions

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We are happy to welcome back Prof Erika Szyszczak on the State Aid Blog today. She is Professor of Law and Fellow of the UK Trade Policy Observatory at University of Sussex and practising barrister and ADR mediator at Littleton Chambers, Temple, London. Today she shares her views on two cases that shed new light on third party rights to […]

Court’s Diary – October 2016

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Find below the court’s diary for all State aid cases this month. Would you like to write a comment on one of them? Please don’t hesitate and get in touch with us (stateaidhub@lexxion.eu), we are happy to publish your comment on the blog.   Tuesday 11/10/2016 Judgment in Case T-167/14 – Søndagsavisen v Commission (General Court – First Chamber) Wednesday 12/10/2016 Judgment […]

Regional Aid for a Large Project subject to Individual Notification under the GBER

In the meaning of regional aid rules, diversification in a “new activity” is not the same as diversification in a “new product”. A “new process innovation” must be different, in the sense of being distinct from an existing process, must be substantial, in the sense that it covers the whole production process and must be new, in the sense that […]

Non-State Aid Assistance to Depositors and Customers of Banks

Public assistance to borrowers who cannot repay their loans does not constitute State aid if the beneficiaries are individuals. Public assistance to undertakings which cannot repay their loans does not constitute State aid if the amount of aid does not exceed the de minimis threshold. Any public funding of deposits which are transferred from ailing to healthy banks is not […]

Polish Green Certificates Held by the Commission to Be Compatible State Aid: a Curious Story Comes to an End

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We are happy to welcome Dr Michał Bernat on the State Aid Blog today. He is a legal and tax adviser and State aid expert at the Dentons offices in Warsaw. Today he shares his insights on a decision in a case involving Polish green certificates issued to producers of energy from renewable energy sources. Read on to learn more. […]

Burden-Sharing and State Aid to Banks

Creditors must contribute to the recovery of banks before State aid is granted. Burden-sharing by creditors in the recovery of banks does not deprive them of their right to property.   Introduction On 19 July 2016, the Court of Justice rendered its judgment in case C‑526/14, Tadej Kotnik and others v Državni zbor Republike Slovenije.[1] The judgment was in response to a […]

Commission Notice on the Notion of State Aid: Part III – Trade Effect, Distortion of Competition and Infrastructure

This is the third and last article in a series of three that reviews the Commission’s Notice on the Notion of State Aid.* Last week’s article analysed the concepts of advantage and selectivity. This week the focus is on the last two constituent elements of the notion of State aid: affectation of cross-border trade and distortion of competition. This article […]

Court’s Diary – September 2016

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Find below the court’s diary for all State aid cases this month. Would you like to write a comment on one of them? Please don’t hesitate and get in touch with us (stateaidhub@lexxion.eu), we are happy to publish your comment on the blog.   Wednesday 14/09/2016 Judgment in Case T-57/15 – Trajektna luka Split v Commission (General Court – Seventh Chamber)   […]

Commission Notice on the Notion of State Aid: Part II – Advantage and Selectivity

This is the second article in a series of three that reviews the Commission’s Notice on the Notion of State Aid.* Last week’s article focused on the concepts of economic activity and state resources.** Next week’s article will conclude with a presentation of the conditions under which trade is affected and competition distorted and an analysis of the application of […]

Commission Notice on the Notion of State Aid: Part I – Economic Activities & State Resources

The Notice provides a thorough review of the case law and the decisional practice of the Commission.   Introduction After more than two years of deliberations, the Commission Notice on the Notion of State Aid was published in the Official Journal on 19 July 2016.[1] The Notice presents “the Commission’s understanding of Article 107(1) of the Treaty, as interpreted by the […]

New Video: How to notify State aid?

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What is State aid? Why do I need to be concerned about State aid? These and many more basic questions are answered in our videos on YouTube. Make sure to visit us!   Today one of our speakers and Attaché for State aid of the Hungarian central administration, Peter Staviczky explains how you notify State aid to the European Commission. Find out how to […]

Compliance with Regulation 651/2014: The Consequences of Failure to Publish an Aid Measure*

Member States must publish the aid measures they adopt on the basis of the GBER. Failure to publish prevents them from being exempted from notification and renders any aid illegal.   Introduction On 21 July 2016, the Court of Justice delivered a judgment in response to a request for a preliminary ruling in case C-493/14, Dilly’s Wellnesshotel v Finanzamt Linz.[1] An […]

New Video: What is GBER and how to use it?

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What is State aid? Why do I need to be concerned about State aid? These and many more basic questions are answered in our videos on YouTube. Make sure to visit us!   Today Alexander Rose from the Government Legal Service of the UK explains what the GBER (=General Block Exemption Regulation) is and how to use it. Watch the video, comment and […]

New Video: What can I do if my measure contains State aid?

What is State aid? Why do I need to be concerned about State aid? These and many more basic questions will be answered in our videos on YouTube. Make sure to visit us!   After Phedon Nicolaides has given us examples of “good aid”, today he answers the question “What can I do if my measure contains State aid?”. View the […]

State Aid Rules and Transfer Pricing

Tax rulings on transfer pricing have to approximate market-based outcomes.   Introduction Twenty years ago, the European Commission initiated discussion on how State aid rules could apply to direct taxation. In 1998 it adopted its Notice on direct business taxation. At about the same time the Commission launched several formal investigations which culminated in negative decisions. In 2013 and 2014, […]

New Video: If you want to learn more about State aid issues…

What is State aid? Why do I need to be concerned about State aid? These and many more basic questions will be answered in our videos on YouTube. Make sure to visit us!   7 weeks ago we started our new State aid journey on YouTube and thank you for viewing our videos, commenting and subscribing to our channel! Today […]

Compatible State Aid May Have Negative Effects on some Market Operators

The existence of market failure is not necessary for aid to be declared compatible under Article 107(3). Market failure does not mean that the market is completely unable to supply a good or service. State aid aiming to remedy market failure may be compatible with the internal market even if it has a negative impact on some market operators.   […]

New Video: Which types of State aid are compatible with the internal market?

What is State aid? Why do I need to be concerned about State aid? These and many more basic questions will be answered in our videos on YouTube. Make sure to visit us!   Last week Phedon Nicolaides gave examples of „good aid“. Today he explains which types of State aid are compatible with the internal market, such as environmental aid, regional development […]

State Aid to Electricity Intensive Users

The risk of relocation outside the EU is not accepted as a justification for the granting of State aid.   Introduction The European Commission has had to assess many measures of State aid to producers of electricity from renewable energy sources [RES producers or “green” electricity producers] and to intensive users of electricity [EIUs]. The former have benefitted from investment […]

New Video: When Is State Aid Allowed and What Is „Good Aid“?

What is State aid? Why do I need to be concerned about State aid? These and many more basic questions will be answered in our videos on YouTube. Make sure to visit us!   Last week Phedon Nicolaides gave „Practical Examples of State aid“, today he addresses the question „What type of aid is allowed?“. This aid is called „good aid“. […]

State Aid Modernisation: First Results

There has been an impressive increase in the use of the General Block Exemption Regulation. However, Member States still notify measures which are acknowledged by the Commission with “comfort letters”.   Introduction[1] In May 2012, the European Commission launched its State Aid Modernisation [SAM] initiative. After two years of consultations with the Member States, a set of new State aid […]

Brexit and State Aid: The Day After

The second part of the Lithuanian measure on the LNG terminal was scheduled to be published this week. In view of the referendum in favour of exit of the UK from the EU, the second part of the Lithuanian measure will be published next week. Instead, this week the focus is on the impact of Brexit on State aid. Introduction […]

New Video: Practical Examples of State Aid

What is State aid? Why do I need to be concerned about State aid? These and many more basic questions will be answered in our videos on YouTube. Make sure to visit us!   After answering the question “Who can grant State aid?” last week, Phedon Nicolaides today gives you some practical examples of State aid such as subsidies by public authorities, […]

PART II: Combining Infrastructure Aid with SGEI Aid

After the spontaneous words on Brexit and State aid last week, I continue with the 2nd part of the post on infrastructure and SGEI today. A provider of services of general economic interest may receive both investment aid and compensation for the extra costs of public service obligations. Part II: SGEI[1] Member States are free to determine the services they […]

Court’s Diary – July 2016

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Find below the court’s diary for all State aid cases this month. Would you like to write a comment on one of them? Please don’t hesitate and get in touch with us (stateaidhub@lexxion.eu), we are happy to publish your comment on the blog.     Thursday 14/07/2016 Judgment in Case T-143/12 – Germany v Commission (General Court – Eigth Chamber) Tuesday 19/07/2016 […]

New Video: Who Can Grant State Aid?

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What is State aid? Why do I need to be concerned about State aid? These and many more basic questions will be answered in our videos on YouTube. Make sure to visit us!   After answering the question “What is State aid?” in his last video, Phedon Nicolaides today speaks about “Who can grant State aid?”. Watch the video, comment and subscribe to […]

New Video: What is State aid?

What is State aid? Why do I need to be concerned about State aid? These and many more basic questions will be answered in our videos on YouTube. Make sure to visit us!   Today Phedon Nicolaides answers the question “What is State aid?”, explaining the four criteria by case law & treaty. View now, comment and subscribe to our […]

Remarks on the Infrastructure Section of the Commission Notice on the Notion of State Aid

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Today we are glad to welcome once again Gian Marco Galletti as guest author on our State aid blog. He is a PhD Candidate & EU Law Tutor at the Dickson Poon School of Law of King’s College London. In this blog post he comments on the Commission’s new Notice on the notion of State aid. Thank you for your […]

PART I: Combining Infrastructure Aid with SGEI Aid

A provider of services of general economic interest may receive both investment aid and compensation for the extra costs of public service obligations.   Introduction Governments normally support large infrastructural projects through guarantees. This is because such projects have a long life, the initial investment costs are very high and the recoupment of investment takes place over a long period […]

New Video: Why Should Public Authorities Be Concerned About State Aid?

What is State aid? Why do I need to be concerned about State aid? These and many more basic questions will be answered in our videos on YouTube. Make sure to visit us!   Today Phedon Nicolaides tells you, why public authorities should be concerned about Stateaid. Please comment and subscribe.     Visit our YouTube Channel and show all videos. […]

Beneficiaries and Benefits of State Guarantees

A state guarantee is presumed to lower borrowing costs. However, any other benefits in relation to customers or suppliers have to be proven.   Introduction On 26 May 2016, the General Court rendered its judgment in case T-479/11, France v Commission concerning the IFP.[1] France appealed against Commission decision 2012/26 which found that France granted aid to IFP. IFP iIFP s […]

State Aid Goes YouTube: Visit Phedon Nicolaides on our YouTube Channel

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What is State aid? Why do I need to be concerned about State aid? What is General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER) and how to use it? These and many more basic questions will be answered in our videos on YouTube. Make sure to visit us!   With great pleasure we announce the beginning of a new era of e-learning about […]

Sport Facilities, the Balancing Test and Distortion of Competition

Aid measures that target persons with particular needs and who are not adequately provided by the market are not likely to be found to distort competition contrary to the common interest, even if there is some substitutability between the subsidised services and similar services provided by the market on commercial terms.   Introduction In August 2011, the Commission received a […]

Frucona Revisited: Confusing EDF and Placing the Burden of Proof Where it Belongs

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We are happy to welcome Erika Ellyne on the State Aid Blog today. She is a lawyer at Van Bael & Bellis law firm where she works on EU competition law matters. Previously she was a researcher at the VUB University and the LSTS research center, where she is still an affiliate. Today she gives her insights on the Frucona […]

Court’s Diary – June 2016

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Find below the court’s diary for all State aid cases this month. Would you like to write a comment on one of them? Please don’t hesitate and get in touch with us (stateaidhub@lexxion.eu), we are happy to publish your comment on the blog.   Thursday 09/06/2016   Judgment in Case T-162/13 – Magic Mountain Kletterhallen and Others v Commission (General […]

Support for Green Electricity: State Resources and “PreussenElektra”

Arrangements established by law whereby undertakings are compensated for any extra payments they make to producers of green electricity are likely to bring those payments under the control of the state. Those payments will then be classified as state resources regardless of whether they are managed by private entities.   Introduction On 10 May 2016, the General Court issued its […]

Tax Exemptions Authorised by the Council of the EU

State aid is an objective concept. When the Commission assesses a measure it has to examine its effects and cannot be bound by a decision of the Council. A beneficiary of State aid cannot entertain legitimate expectations simply because the Commission does not appear to object to the aid.   Introduction On 22 April 2016, the General Court rendered its judgment […]

PART II: Regional Development and i) Market Economy Operator Test ii) Services of General Economic Interest

A market economy operator undertakes activities whose incremental revenue exceeds their incremental costs. A market economy operator ignores costs which are unaffected by those activities. A service of general economic interest has special characteristics that set it apart from other services with positive impact on the economy. Having a positive impact is not enough.   Part II: Public tasks and […]

PART I: Regional Development and i) Market Economy Operator Test, ii) Services of General Economic Interest

A market economy operator undertakes activities whose incremental revenue exceeds their incremental costs. A market economy operator ignores costs which are unaffected by those activities. A service of general economic interest has special characteristics that set it apart from other services with positive impact on the economy. Having a positive impact is not enough.   Introduction National and regional authorities […]

Calculation of State Aid in Guarantees

State guarantees can be used to support loans for working capital. The amount of State aid in guarantees can be calculated to remain below the de minimis threshold of EUR 200,000.   Introduction With financial instruments being very much in vogue, there is much interest in the use of guarantees and loans as a means of granting State aid. Therefore, […]

Court’s Diary – May 2016

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Find below the court’s diary for all State aid cases this month. Would you like to write a comment on one of them? Please don’t hesitate and get in touch with us (stateaidhub@lexxion.eu), we are happy to publish your comment on the blog.   Tuesday 10/05/2016 Judgment in Case T-47/15 – Germany v Commission (General Court – Third Chamber)   […]

Who is Aided when a Bank is Resolved?

Bank resolution may involve State aid. However, the depositors do not normally benefit from State aid, nor do the buyers of the viable assets, if they pay a market price. Any aid normally goes to the remaining, non-performing, assets that are eventually liquidated.   Introduction The new bank resolution regime that came into force on 1 January 2016 aims to […]

The Private Creditor Test: All Options Must be Taken into Account

A private investor always takes into account all available information before it makes any investment. Similarly, a private creditor takes into account all available options for recovering the largest possible amount of the money that is due. Such options may include different legal procedures. In assessing alternative options, a private creditor considers not only the amount that may be recovered, […]

Local Infrastructure

Public funding of local infrastructure is not State aid when the responsibility for the infrastructure falls within the remit of public authorities, it is not commercially exploited, it is open to all users, it is not intended to support the needs of any particular undertaking and any benefits to any undertaking are incidental.   Introduction Even since the adoption of […]

Court’s Diary – April 2016

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Find below the court’s diary for all State aid cases this month. Would you like to write a comment on one of them? Please don’t hesitate and get in touch with us (stateaidhub@lexxion.eu), we are happy to publish your comment on the blog.   Thursday 14/04/2016 Judgment in Case C-100/15 P – Netherlands Maritime Technology Association v Commission (Court of […]

The Treatment of Advisory and Information Services under State Aid Rules: The Case of the German Milk Levy

Public funding of advisory and information activities may constitute State aid. Public funding of industry associations may constitute State aid.   Introduction An article that was published on this blog in January (view the article HERE) dealt with the issue of compulsory tests. If tests which are intended to safeguard public health are paid for by the state, is there any […]

Compensatory Payments Can still Confer an Advantage

Membership of a compulsory insurance scheme can still confer an advantage to participating undertakings. Private contributions can still become state resources if they are paid into a fund that is managed by the state. Member States always have the option to ask for a measure to be assessed directly on the basis of the Treaty but they have to justify […]

a) Natural Disasters and b) Absolute Impossibility to Recover Incompatible State Aid

Aid to remedy the damage caused by natural disasters can be granted only if the damage is the direct consequence of the disaster and the amount of aid must be limited to the actual damage suffered by each individual undertaking. Absence of documentary evidence can lead to absolute impossibility to recover incompatible aid.   Introduction Article 107(2) TFEU declares three […]

How to Apply the Market Economy Investor Principle and what Mistakes to Avoid: The Long-running Case of EDF

A market investor carries out a thorough ex ante analysis of the prospects of an investment before it commits any money.     Introduction In 2004, the European Commission concluded, in decision 2005/145, that France granted incompatible aid to Electricite de France [EDF]. The French government had converted tax liability into share capital in EDF. The Commission was of the […]

When Infrastructure is not Public: Dedicated, Project-Specific and Bespoke

Public funding of open and freely used infrastructure is not State aid. Public funding of project-specific, dedicated or bespoke infrastructure is State aid. Public funding of infrastructure connecting public and private parts may be State aid if the relevant national rules require developers to bear the cost.   Introduction The Commission has recently examined an infrastructure project in the vicinity […]

How to Determine the Selectivity of a Tax Measure

A tax exception is normally a selective measure. However, exceptions which are open to all undertakings are not selective, even if they deviate from the standard tax rate or base. Exceptions which are open only to a few undertakings escape from being classified as selective only when the beneficiary undertakings are in a different legal or factual situation than non-beneficiaries. […]

Being a Competition and State Aid Trainee at the EFTA Surveillance Authority

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We are happy to welcome two young professionals on the State Aid Blog today. Guðmundur Guðmundsson and Amie Eliassen are trainees at EFTA Surveillance Authority in the Competition and State Aid Directorate and give their insights on working in this dynamic and multicultural work environment. You want to apply for a traineeship yourself? Read on for more information.   The […]

The Boundaries of Non-Economic Infrastructure and the Limits of the Funding Gap Method

Public funding of assets which are used exclusively by certain undertakings constitutes State aid. If the state chooses to fund certain assets or activities, then it must do so consistently in all regions and in relation to all affected undertakings.   Introduction A typical mission of the state is to provide public goods. Normally public funding of public goods is […]

Court’s Diary – March 2016

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Find below the court’s diary for all State aid cases. Would you like to write a comment on one of them? Please don’t hesitate and get in touch with us (stateaidhub@lexxion.eu), we are happy to publish your comment on the blog.   Tuesday 01/03/2016 Judgment in Case T-79/14 – Secop v Commission (General Court – First Chamber) Thursday 03/03/2016 Judgment […]

Connecting Public and Private Infrastructure

Public funding of public infrastructure is not State aid. Public funding of connections between public and private infrastructure is not State aid as long as it is open to all users and no fee is charged.   Introduction Last week’s article examined the use of a port facility. This week the focus is on a related issue: investment in port […]

Possible Advantage from the Exclusive Use of Public-Funded Infrastructure

The exclusive use of a public asset or an asset funded by public money may confer an advantage in the meaning of Article 107(1) TFEU if several competitors express their interest to use the same asset.   Introduction As public authorities are becoming more aware that placing public assets at the disposal of undertakings can involve State aid, they increasingly […]

Court’s Diary – February 2016

Find below the court’s diary for all State aid cases. Would you like to write a comment on one of them? Please don’t hesitate and get in touch with us (stateaidhub@lexxion.eu), we are happy to publish your comment on the blog   Thursday 04/02/2016 Judgment in Case T-287/11 – Heitkamp BauHolding v Commission (General Court – Ninth Chamber) Judgment in […]

Nature Conservation as a Service of General Economic Interest

Public funding of non-economic activities does not create State aid problems when any related economic activities are clearly separated. The 2012 SGEI package can apply retroactively.   Introduction Member States of the European Union are free to designate the services they consider to be in the general economic interest. However, the wide discretion they enjoy in this respect falls under […]

Is there an Advantage when the State Pays for Compulsory Milk Tests?

Undertakings obtain an advantage when the state pays for their normal costs. Normal costs are costs which are inherent in the operations of undertakings. The costs of meeting legal obligations are normal.   Introduction The case law on advantage in the meaning of Article 107(1) TFEU says that aid confers an advantage to undertakings when they obtain a benefit that […]

Valuation of Assets Disposed by the State

The value of an asset can be determined according to different methods. The main methods examine future income or comparable transactions or stock market valuation. Agreements between sellers and buyers that contain indemnification clauses or settle past claims do not reflect the true market value of the sold asset.   Introduction 9 December 2015, the General Court rendered its judgment […]

An Exception Is Not Necessarily Selective: The Case of the Spanish Tax Lease [1]

An exception from a tax system is not selective if it is a priori open to any tax payer. Checks by tax authorities to ensure that a measure is applied correctly do not constitute exercise of administrative discretion that may render a measure de facto selective. The impact of a measure on trade and competition cannot be merely presumed just […]

Regional Aid to Car Manufacturers – Part II

This is the second part of the article that was published last week. Regional aid, like all State aid, must be necessary and proportional. Regional aid is necessary when investment in an assisted region is more costly. Regional aid is proportional when it does not exceed the amount which can make the investment sufficiently profitable or offset the cost disadvantage […]

Top 5 Most Read State Aid Uncovered Posts of the Year

Questions around Altmark, the Market Economy Investor Principle, the granting of De Minimis aid and many more have moved and shaped this year’s judgments on State aid. See which articles by Prof. Phedon Nicolaides were the most popular ones in 2015.   With the approach of the end of the third year of Prof. Nicolaides’ blog State Aid Uncovered, we […]

Regional Aid to Car Manufacturers

Regional aid, like all State aid, must be necessary and proportional. Regional aid is necessary when investment in an assisted region is more costly. Regional aid is proportional when it does not exceed the amount which can make the investment sufficiently profitable or offset the cost disadvantage of investment in an assisted region.   Introduction In July 2014, the European […]

Court’s Diary – January 2016

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Find below the court’s diary for all State aid cases. Would you like to write a comment on one of them? Please don’t hesitate and get in touch with us (stateaidhub@lexxion.de), we are happy to publish your comment on the blog.     Thursday 28/01/2016 Judgment in T-507/12 -Slovenia v Commission (General Court – Fifth Chamber)

i) New v Existing State Aid ii) Exemption from VAT and Attribution to Member States iii) The Duty of National Courts to Protect Competitors from Illegal State aid

Aid that pre-exists the entry of a Member State into the EU is “existing” and does not have to be recovered. VAT exemptions authorised by the EU are not State aid. National courts must disregard national legal provisions that prevent them from acting against illegal aid.   Introduction This article examines a variety of issues: when State aid is existing […]

Altmark, again!

Sectoral regulation is not the same as definition of public service obligation. Aid that favours a certain technology is incompatible with the internal market, unless it can be objectively justified.   Introduction “Altmark” has become a permanent feature in the landscape of State aid. Its application was again one of the main issues of contention in six judgments rendered by […]

Court’s Diary – December 2015

Find below the court’s diary for all State aid cases. Would you like to write a comment on one of them? Please don’t hesitate and get in touch with us (stateaidhub@lexxion.eu), we are happy to publish your comment on the blog   Thursday 07/12/2015 Judgment in Case T-242/12 – SNCF v Commission (General Court – Seventh Chamber)   Thursday 17/12/2015 Judgment in […]

Top 3 State Aid Blog Posts from 2015

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From Amazon’s ‘advance pricing agreement’ over State aid to the Hungarian electricity market to Black Cabs’ exclusive rights in London, our guest bloggers on the StateAidHub have shed light on various controversial State aid judgments and developments. View now the most popular posts of 2015.   As 2015 and therefore the StateAidHub’s first year draws to a close, we thank […]

Investment and Operating Aid to Airports

State aid is granted on the date the relevant public authority makes an irrevocable commitment to grant it or creates a legal entitlement for the beneficiary. Loans that impose public policy obligations on borrowers are not in conformity with the behaviour of a private investor.   Introduction This is a rather long article because it examines a rich case that […]

Market Economy Investor Principle

Public investment is free of State aid when it is made at the same time and on equal terms with investments by private investors. In the absence of an equivalent private investment, public investment does not constitute State aid when it is demonstrated ex ante that it is capable of generating market rates of return.   Introduction Public authorities are […]

The Interpretation of Conflicting Norms regarding the Validity of State Aid Infolding Contracts Must Be Consistent with the Safeguard of Individual Rights Created by EU State Aid Law (C 505/14, Klausner)

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The following blog post is another contributory piece by Emanuela Matei, Associate Researcher at the Centre of European Legal Studies, Bucharest. Matei holds a Juris Master in European Business Law (Lund University, June 2012), a Magister legum (Lund University, June 2010) and a BSc in Economics & Business Administration (Lund University, June 2009). We are very glad to welcome her […]

Special Tax Treatment to Alleviate Structural Disadvantages

Favourable tax treatment to alleviate “structural disadvantages” suffered by certain companies is a selective measure that falls within the scope of Article 107(1).   Introduction Member States use taxes not just to raise revenue but also as instruments of public policy. They impose taxes on activities they want to discourage [e.g. smoking, driving] and they relieve from taxes activities they […]

Sale of Public Land and Conditions for Credible Expert Valuation

The value of land corresponds to its market price that can be determined through open and unconditional bidding. If a price cannot be determined through bidding, then expert valuation is an alternative method for establishing the value of land. Expert valuation has to be carried out ex ante, by a recognised independent surveyor, on the basis of reasonable assumptions and […]

Economic Continuity and Recovery of Incompatible State Aid

Incompatible State aid must be recovered from “successor” companies which acquire previously aided companies and enable the latter to continue their operations without any change.     Introduction In this article I review two decisions in which the Commission determined that incompatible aid had to be recovered from “successor” companies. Those were companies which had obtained the assets of the […]

The Perennial Altmark Questions

A SGEI provider does not have to be efficient by industry standards in order to receive compensation for its next extra costs. Although the conditions for compatibility of public service compensation under Article 106(2) TFEU appear to be similar to the Altmark criteria, they have very different objectives.   Introduction Even since the Altmark judgment of July 2003, public authorities […]

Summary of Lexxion Seminar: State aid for Tax Measures on 26-27 October 2015, Brussels

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The following is a summary of the main points that were presented and the issues that were discussed in the seminar on State aid in Tax Measures that was held in Brussels on 26-27 October 2015. The summary has been prepared for information purposes only and it is not meant to be a precise record of the proceedings of the […]

Should State Aid that Is Passed on to Consumers Not be Recovered?

Should the amount of recoverable aid be similarly reduced by the amount that is allegedly passed on to consumers? I will argue the case against it.   Introduction On 5 February 2015, the General Court, in cases T-473/12, Aer Lingus v Commission[1] and T-500/12, Ryanair v Commission[2], annulled Article 4 of Commission Decision 2013/199. In that decision the Commission found that a […]

Court’s Diary – November 2015

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Find below the court’s diary for all State aid cases. Would you like to write a comment on one of them? Please don’t hesitate and get in touch with us (stateaidhub@lexxion.eu), we are happy to publish your comment on the blog.   Wednesday 11/11/2015 Judgment in Case C-505/14 – Klausner Holz Niedersachsen (Court of Justice – Second Chamber) Thursday 12/11/2015 Judgment in […]

A Primer on Compensation for the Extra Costs of Public Service Obligations Taking into Account Efficiency Gains

When Member States impose PSOs they are never allowed to grant even a single euro in excess of the net extra costs of the PSO. That is prohibited for the simple reason that it results in over-compensation.     Introduction The Lexxion seminar on state aid for transport and transport infrastructure that took place in Brussels on 21-22 September (view […]

The State Acting as a Private Creditor & State Aid Enforcement and Procedural Rights

In this article I review Commission decision SA.37100 on JSC Liepajas Metalurgs [LM], once Latvia’s largest steel company and major employer. The decision examines whether Latvia acted promptly to recover a debt owed to it by a company that faced financial difficulties. The question was whether Latvia acted as a private creditor when it allowed the debtor to continue operations. […]

A new misnomer in State aid law: single economic unit with separate legal personality (C 357/14 P, Dunamenti Erőmű/Commission)

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The following blog post is a contributory piece by Emanuela Matei, Associate Researcher at the Centre of European Legal Studies, Bucharest. Matei holds a Juris Master in European Business Law (Lund University, June 2012), a Magister legum (Lund University, June 2010) and a BSc in Economics & Business Administration (Lund University, June 2009). We are very glad to welcome her […]

Airport Infrastructure, Public Remit and the MEOT

A public authority, acting as a private investor, may provide finance which is free of state aid to an airport and at the same time grant state aid to the same airport. Public funding of activities that fall within the exclusive tasks of the state is not state aid. When a public authority defines the activities that fall within the […]

New State Aid Regulations

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Regulation 2015/1589 is the new procedural regulation. It lays down the rules for, among other things, notification of state aid, formal investigation, injunctions and recovery of incompatible aid. Because of its importance in the EU system of state aid control, it will be fully reviewed at a forthcoming article. In the Official Journal of 24 September 2015 you will find […]

Courts’s Diary – October 2015

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Any comments on #Stateaid? Get in touch: Stateaidhub[at]lexxion.eu   Thursday 01/10/2015 Judgment in Case C-357/14 P – Electrabel and Dunamenti Erőmű v Commission (Court of Justice – Third Chamber)   Tuesday 06/10/2015 Judgment in Case C-303/13 P – Andersen v Commission (Court of Justice – Grand Chamber)   Thursday 08/10/2015 Hearing in Joined Cases T-479/11 & T-157/12 – France v Commission, […]

The Pricing of Access to an Important Project of Common European Interest

Infrastructure that is commercially exploited [e.g. charging of tolls] is an economic activity. Infrastructure that is freely available to users is not economic activity. Access fees or tolls may be regulated. State aid must be necessary and proportional even if access fees are regulated.   Introduction This article examines Commission decision SA.39078 concerning the Fehmarn belt fixed link in Denmark.[1] This […]

Compensation for Public Service Obligations and Compensation for Damage

Compensation for public service obligations is compatible with the internal market when, at minimum, a PSO is well defined in an entrustment constituting an official act of a public authority, the revenues and costs of the PSO are clearly identified and separated from other commercial activities and the compensation does not exceed the net extra costs of the PSO. Compensation […]

When Do Public Pronouncements Confer an Advantage to Undertakings?

Public pronouncements can confer an advantage if they are sufficiently precise and clearly commit a public authority to support an undertaking.   Introduction[1] Politicians often claim that they would never allow important national companies to go bust. Occasionally, such claims appear to sway market sentiment in favour of those companies. Private investors are heartened by the avowed support of the […]

How Reasonable The Private Investor May Be Assumed To Be? Corsica Ferries France

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The following article summary is a contributory piece by Gian Marco Galletti. The full piece was published in the Common Market Law Review. Galletti is working as a researcher at the Dickson Poon School of Law since 2013. He is currently working on a PhD in European law under the supervision of Prof. Andrea Biondi. He holds an LLB with […]

Why Do some Member States Offer so much Fiscal Aid?

Member States differ significantly in their propensity to grant fiscal aid.   Introduction Interest in fiscal aid has been rekindled recently by two unrelated events. First, the Commission opened a number of investigations on the alleged special tax treatment accorded to multinational companies such as Apple and Starbucks. These investigations are believed to be almost completed and the Commission is […]

Services of General Economic Interest: How to Compensate and Induce more Efficiency

Even traditional monopolists, like postal operators, have to comply with the rules on compensation for the extra costs of public service obligations. SGEI providers can be compensated in a way that induces them to become more efficient.   Introduction This article examines case Commission decision SA.38788 concerning compensation for the UK Post Office Ltd [POL] in the period 2015-18.[1] It is […]

Ex post Evaluation of State Aid Measures

Ex post evaluation is not just a “pillar” of State Aid Modernisation. It is also an indispensable tool for understanding the impact and effectiveness of State aid. State aid modernisation and decentralisation   One of the pillars of the Commission’s State Aid Modernisation initiative is the decentralisation of responsibility for the implementation of State aid measures. The decentralisation works by […]

The Use and Abuse of De Minimis Aid & State Resources

Individual awards of de minimis aid must remain below the relevant threshold as well as the sum of all individual awards in any three-year period. Aid measures which are funded by beneficiaries themselves are unlikely to constitute State aid.   Introduction This article reviews two cases that, among other things, deal with the use and abuse of de minimis aid […]

Court’s Diary – September 2015

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Any comments on #Stateaid? Get in touch: Stateaidhub[at]lexxion.eu   Thursday 03/09/2015   Judgment in Case C-89/14 – A2A (Court of Justice – Fifth Chamber)Tuesday 08/09/2015 Hearing in Case T-103/14 – Frucona Košice v Commission (General Court – Second Chamber)  Thursday 17/09/2015 Judgment in Case C-33/14 P – Mory and Others v Commission (Court of Justice – Third Chamber)   Friday 18/09/2015 […]

The Challenge of Calculating a Market Price

The market price of land or buildings can be determined via auction, expert valuation or other appropriate methods.   Introduction On 16 July 2015, the Court of Justice delivered its judgment in case C‑39/14, BVVG Bodenverwertungs- und -verwaltungs GmbH [BVVG] v Landkreis Jerichower Land in Germany.[1] The judgment was in response to a request for a preliminary ruling concerning a dispute […]

Application of the MEIP to Transactions between Parent and Subsidiary Companies

The Market Economy Investor Principle also applies to transactions between related companies. A private investor enjoys a margin of discretion in deciding in favour or against an investment. However, despite that margin of discretion, a prudent private investor always carries out an assessment of the potential profitability of the investment before it commits any money.   Introduction When a public […]

Using Loans to Grant De Minimis Aid and GBER Compatible Aid

De minimis aid underpins “off-the-shelf” financial instruments which leverage private investment and at the same time ensure that all aid is passed on to the final beneficiary.   Introduction One of the most convenient aid instruments is de minimis aid. It can be used for any purpose [apart from promotion of exports or on condition that domestic products are favoured] […]

Privatisation by Splitting the Assets

The sale of a public undertaking [privatisation] needs to be preceded by independent valuation and be carried out on the basis of a competitive procedure. Certain guarantees may be provided to prospective buyers, if they could increase the sale price. The break-up of an undertaking and the disposal of the different parts through separate sales should be shown to generate […]

The Market Economy Investor Principle Applies also to Avoidance of Losses

A public authority can act as a private investor in paying to avoid costly contractual clauses. A public authority can act as a private investor in paying to bring forward future revenue. Introduction   When a market operator invests to make profit, its underlying logic is the same as when it pays to avoid losses. In both cases it is […]

Germany Scores a Hat-trick of Non-Aid Measures!

At the end of April, the European Commission announced that seven measures were found not to constitute State aid because they could not be reasonably expected to affect cross-border trade. The finding of no affectation of trade is rare. That seven measures were thought not capable of affecting trade is very exceptional. Perhaps the Commission is trying to signal to […]

The Perils of Ex Post Monitoring

Greater use of the new General Block Exemption Regulation means fewer State aid measures subject to notification and ex ante assessment by the Commission. However, less ex ante control will be followed by more ex post control. Member States should be prepared for wider and more intrusive ex post monitoring.   Introduction One of the cornerstones of the State Aid […]

Court’s Diary – July 2015

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Any comments on #Stateaid? Get in touch: Stateaidhub[at]lexxion.de Wednesday 01/07/2015 Opinion in Case C-357/14 P Dunamenti Erőmű v Commission (Court of Justice – Third Chamber)   Thursday 02/07/2015 Judgment in Joined cases T-425/04 RENV France v Commission, T-444/04 RENV Orange v Commission (General Court – Sixth Chamber, Extended Composition)   Wednesday 08/07/2015 Hearing in Case T-287/11 Heitkamp BauHolding v Commission (General Court – Ninth […]

Levying of Charges to Maintain Equal Treatment Is Not Necessarily Selective

The standard of proof of whether a measure is selective depends on whether that measure is a scheme or a grant of individual aid. Measures providing for exemption are by definition selective. Measures that impose additional charges for the purpose of maintaining equality between operators are not necessarily selective even if the responsible authorities retain a degree of discretion in […]

Ex post Monitoring of a Risk Capital Fund

Ex post monitoring will be pursued vigorously by the Commission. Irregularities in the implementation of State aid measures may lead to the opening of the formal investigation procedure.   Introduction This article examines Commission decision concerning a UK risk capital scheme entitled Enterprise Capital Funds [SA.15373 and SA.33186]. The decision is the outcome of an investigation that was initiated after […]

Restructuring Aid, Recovery of Aid and Procedural Rights

Restructuring aid can finance any part of a restructuring plan. Compensatory measures initiated before the granting of restructuring aid can be taken into account as long as they are linked to the restructuring itself. Member States have to comply with the conditions defined in Commission decisions. They cannot justify non-compliance on the grounds of domestic institutional difficulties. Regional authorities that […]

EStAL Best Reviewer Award 2014/2015

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Last week our 13th Experts’ Forum on New Developments in European State Aid Law took place. From 10th to 12th June 2015 a group of enthusiastic professionals interested in State Aid gathered at the Club of the University Foundation in Brussels to discuss the most recent issues on the topic. In the realm of this conference, we were proud to announce our […]

Public Service Obligations: A Few More Mistakes that Can Be Avoided

Even efficient companies will fail the 4th Altmark criterion if their costs are not proven to be comparable to those of a typical and well-equipped undertaking. Public funding of infrastructure is not State aid to users only if access is open to all. Public funding for training to raise social awareness is still State aid if it relieves companies of […]

A National Measure that Does Not Apply at Regional Level Is Not Necessarily Selective

Where there is a constitutional division of tax competences, different authorities may tax similar activities at different rates.   Introduction This article examines Commission decision SA.34469 on differential tax rates for online and land-based gambling in Spain.[1] In the Spanish political system, regions that have the status of Autonomous Communities have powers of taxation. The issue at hand was which authority […]

A Market Operator, unlike a Public Authority, Does not Have to Treat all Customers Equally

In managing infrastructure, a public authority acts as a private operator when it seeks a reasonable return on its investment and also takes into account the alternative of not operating the infrastructure. The manager of an infrastructural project may charge different fees to different users to optimise usage and increase revenue.   Introduction This article reviews Commission decision 2015/506 concerning […]

Court’s Diary – June 2015

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Any comments on #Stateaid? Get in touch: Stateaidhub[at]lexxion.eu Thursday 04/06/2015 Judgment in Case C-15/14 P Commission v MOL (Court of Justice – First Chamber)   Tuesday 09/06/2015 Hearing in Case T-515/13 Spain v Commission (General Court – Seventh Chamber)   Wednesday 10/06/2015 Hearing in Case C-367/14 Commission v Italy (Court of Justice – Third Chamber) Hearing in Case T-719/13 Lico Leasing and Pequeños y […]

Do Free but Compulsory Tests Confer a Selective Advantage?

State aid rules apply to measures which are either harmonised at EU level or are left to the discretion of Member States. The protection of public health is no sufficient reason for removing a public measure from the scope of Article 107(1). The fact that undertakings are obliged by law to comply with certain tests does not justify the subsidisation […]

How Injection of Public Capital Can Be Free of State Aid

Injection of public capital in an undertaking conforms with the market economy investor principle when: The public investment is equal and concomitant to private investment. The public investment has economic significance and is not followed by disengagement of private investors. The recipient undertaking is in a healthy financial position. The recipient undertaking compares favourably to its peers. The investment is […]

Land Development

The sale of land and buildings owned by a public authority conforms with the market economy operator principle when i) it is profitable, ii) there is no alternative transaction that is economically more attractive, and iii) the sale is as profitable as similar transactions concluded at the same time.   Introduction The article examines Commission decision 2015/507 concerning the sale […]

PART II: Green Electricity and Reduction of Energy Taxes for Energy-Intensive Users

Part II: Support of electricity production from renewable energy sources is normally compatible with the internal market. Reduction of taxes on electricity used by energy-intensive industries is allowed only for certain sectors exposed to international trade and only when they bear a certain cost. Taxes on imported electricity normally infringe free-trade and non-discrimination provisions, unless commensurate benefits are extended to […]

Green Electricity and Reduction of Energy Taxes for Energy-Intensive Users

Support of electricity production from renewable energy sources is normally compatible with the internal market. Reduction of taxes on electricity used by energy-intensive industries is allowed only for certain sectors exposed to international trade and only when they bear a certain cost. Taxes on imported electricity normally infringe free-trade and non-discrimination provisions, unless commensurate benefits are extended to imported electricity. […]

State Guarantees

The amount of State aid in a guarantee that makes possible the granting of a loan to a well-collateralised firm in difficulty is not the difference in premium but the difference in interest rates. Beneficiaries of guarantees not notified to the Commission do not have any remedy under EU law. Introduction   Last week’s article examined State aid in the […]

Court’s Diary – May 2015

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Interested in #Stateaid? Get in touch and write a blog post or a comment for the hub! Stateaidhub[at]lexxion.eu Wednesday 06/05/2015 Judgement in Case C-674/13 Commission v Germany (Court of Justice – Second Chamber) Hearing, Joined Cases T-50/06 RENV II, T-69/06 RENVII Ireland v Commission, Aughinish Alumina v Commission (General Court – First Chamber, Extended Composition)   Wednesday 13/05/2015 Judgement in Case […]

Loans for SMEs

Low-interest loans may be used to support investments. The granting of de minimis aid through loans is possible only if loans are secured against collateral. The 2008 Commission Communication on interest rates does not apply to subordinated, non-collateralised loans.   Introduction “Investment for growth” is the slogan which seems to be on everybody’s lips in Brussels. Last Friday, the European […]

In Brief: AG Opinion, Case C‑39/14 – Bodenverwertungs- und -verwaltungs GmbH (BVVG), Thomas Erbs, Ursula Erbs v Landkreis Jerichower Land

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This note takes a look at the Opinion of AG Cruz Villalón, delivered on Tuesday 17th March (not available in English at the time of posting). In his 80 paragraph Opinion the AG proposed that the CJEU reply to the preliminary reference question from the German Bundesgerichtshof as follows: Article 107 TFEU should be interpreted to mean that a rule […]

Court’s Diary – April 2015

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Got something to say about State Aid? Want to write something on our Blog? Get in touch with us at Stateaidhub[at]lexxion.eu Thursday 16/04/2015 Judgment in Case C-690/13 Trapeza Eurobank Ergasias (Court of Justice – Ninth Chamber)   Monday 20/04/2015 Hearing in Case C-357/14 P Dunamenti Erőmű v Commission (Court of Justice – Third Chamber)   Wednesday 22/04/2015 Hearing in Case T-499/12 HSH Investment Holdings Coinvest-C and […]

Relief from Pension Contributions and Reduction of Taxes

Compensation for structural disadvantages encumbering undertakings is still State aid. Compensation for structural disadvantages encumbering SGEI providers is not State aid only if it satisfies the Altmark criteria. Reductions of excise duties approved by the Council may still be subject to scrutiny by the Commission under State aid rules. Exception of fossil fuel from energy taxes when it is not […]

In Brief: Case C‑672/13, OTP Bank Nyrt v Magyar Állam, Magyar Államkincstár

otp bank logo
A quick look at the latest ruling of the CJEU from Thursday 19th March.   In Case C‑672/13 OTP Bank the CJEU responded to preliminary ruling questions from the Hungarian Fővárosi Törvényszék relating to the categorisation of an agency agreement concluded in 2008 between the the Ministry of Local Government, the State Treasury and OTP Bank on the basis of Paragraph 24(15) of […]

Non-Economic Activities

Health insurance which is based on the principle of social solidarity is not economic in nature. Solidarity means that citizens have a right to the service in question and the quality of the service they obtain is not linked to the price they pay, if any. Health services which are provided privately for remuneration are economic in nature. Services provided […]

Procedures for examining abnormally low tenders as a State aid tool? A note on Case C-568/13 Data Medical Service

hospital
A look at the Court’s ruling of 18th December 2014 and the use of abnormally low tenders in public service contracts as indicators of illegal State subsidies. This short note examines Case C-568/13 Data Medical Service on the award of public service contracts, which is particularly interesting from a State aid perspective. While stressing that there are no exclusions whatsoever – at a […]

Roundup of EStAL Intensive Workshop, London

workshop
Interactive Seminar on The Role of the Market Economy Investor Principle (MEIP) | Infrastructure Funding in Compliance with State Aid Rules March 11th 2015 was a busy day for the State Aid crowd who gathered at King’s College in London for an Intensive Workshop organized by Lexxion. First of all we would like to thank all those, both speakers and participants, […]

A New but Dubious Concept of Advantage [1]

When the Commission orders recovery of aid that is intended to be passed on to final consumers, it must first calculate the amount, if any, that has been retained by the direct recipients of the aid. If the calculation is too complex, the Commission can delegate that task to national authorities. Introduction   On 5 February 2015, the General Court ruled […]

In Brief: T-135/12 and T-385/12 France v Commission and Orange v Commission

france telecom orange logo
The General Court confirmed that France granted State aid compatible with the internal market to France Télécom, in accordance with the conditions laid down by the Commission, and dismissed the actions.   The Press Release can be read here and the rulings (in French) here.  Last Thursday 26th February the General Court gave its rulings in Cases T-135/12 and T-385/12 France v Commission and Orange v Commission. […]

Exclusive Rights

The granting of exclusive rights may confer an advantage but does not in itself result in transfer of state resources. Private undertakings that hold exclusive rights are not utilising state resources by the mere fact that they operate under rights conferred by the state. Price regulation is a regulatory act which does not entail transfer of state resources. Introduction   […]

Court’s Diary – March 2015

gavel, animal figures, euros
A look at the month ahead Got something to say about State Aid? You can get in touch with us at  Stateaidhub[at]lexxion.eu   Thursday 05/03/2015 Judgment in Case C-667/13 Banco Privado Português and Massa Insolvente do Banco Privado Português (Court of Justice – Second Chamber)   Friday 06/03/2015 Hearing in Joined Cases T-60/06 RENV II and T-62/06 RENV II Italy v Commission, Eurallumina v Commission (General Court – First […]

Failure to Satisfy Ex Post the Altmark Criteria, but Compliance with the 2014 Aviation Guidelines

Public service obligations must be entrusted by an official act and defined with sufficient precision. Imprecise definition of public service obligations makes it impossible to identify the costs which are caused by such obligations. Consequently, imprecise definition of public service obligations makes it impossible to grant compensation because subsidisation of non-eligible costs cannot be excluded. Compensation may not be granted […]

Restructuring and the Market Economy Investor Principle

Different interventions that aim to finance the same restructuring plan constitute a single measure. A private investor may consider a possible damage of its reputation from laying off workers but the damage has to be quantified. Finance support of employees provides an indirect benefit to the employer. Introduction   In this article I review two similar cases: a judgment of […]

i) Environmental Harm Does Not Make State Aid Incompatible with the Internal Market ii) the Market Economy Investor Principle Applied to Monopolies

Security of energy supply can be a service of general economic interest. Avoiding harm to the environment is not one of the principles that underpin the internal market and which may not be violated by State aid measures. Determining whether competition is distorted does not require definition of the relevant markets.   This article examines two apparently different but in […]

State aid to football clubs in Croatia?

football clubs in Croatia
GNK Dinamo Zagreb: Will the next act of the sports and State aid saga play out in the EU’s newest capital?     The spectre of EU State aid law has loomed over professional club football in Europe since the Commission’s initiation, in 2013, of in-depth investigations into five football clubs in the Netherlands (SA.33584) and seven clubs in Spain […]

In brief: C-37/14 Commission v France

fruit and vegetables
On Thursday 12th February the CJEU passed down its ruling in C-37/14, finding that France did not take all necessary measures to recover aid illegally granted to the fruit and vegetable sector and thereby failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 288(4) TFEU. The full ruling is available here and the press release can be accessed here. The aid in question concerned ‘contingency plans’ […]

Court’s Diary and an invitation to get in touch!

gavel on a laptop
A quick look at the month ahead in the GC/CJEU and reminder about how to get in touch with your news, views and information on how to write a post: Stateaidhub[at]lexxion.de Court’s Diary As we look to the month ahead, there are several State aid cases trickling through the EU Courts to watch out for. Here’s an update from the […]

Black Cabs in London Retain ‘Exclusive’ Rights to Drive in Bus Lanes

black cab
A detailed note on Case C-518/13 The Queen, on the application of Eventech Ltd v The Parking Adjudicator (judgment of 14th January 2015) An enduring feature of EU law is that it may be used in an opportunist manner in some of the lowest tribunals in the EU to create challenges to national rules and policies. This was how the Eventech case arose. […]

“Good” Procedures Make “Good” State Aid: Ex Ante Conditionality for Effective Application of EU State Aid Rules

Structural fund rules for the period 2014-2020 define ex ante conditionalities that have to be satisfied by Managing Authorities that use EU funds to grant State aid. The ex ante conditionalities aim to strengthen the administrative capacity of Managing Authorities to grant State aid correctly. The European Commission has issued guidance on arrangements that can lead to improved administrative capacity. […]

Non-Commercial Public Infrastructure: Another Judgment, More Questions

Public infrastructure which is not exploited for commercial purposes does not result in an advantage for its users. Undertakings which are subject to different regulatory requirements can be treated differently. Cross-border trade can be affected even when there is no direct provision of cross-border services.   Introduction The Leipzig-Halle judgment of 2011 was a shock to public funding of infrastructure […]

Luxembourg, Amazon, and the State aid connection

amazon package
The Commission’s opening decision: What should we make of Amazon’s ‘advance pricing agreement’ (APA) and its alleged (non-) compliance with the ‘arm’s length principle’ (ALP)? In early October 2014, the European Commission notified Luxembourg of its decision to open a state aid investigation in relation to the tax treatment of the Amazon group by the Luxembourgish tax authorities. This opening […]

Use of Publicly-Funded Infrastructure without State Aid

Public funding of infrastructure which is open to any user does not constitute State aid. Public funding for the upgrading/extension of infrastructure in view of expected increase in the number of users is not State aid as long as it is not designed for the specific needs of certain users.Fees charged to users of publicly-funded infrastructure must cover incremental costs […]

Tax Measures with Specific Objectives Can still Be General

A tax measure that applies to certain transactions is not selective if it does not preclude any company or type of asset. Conditions for the application of a tax measure may be justified by the logic of the tax system. The Commission may not use Article 107(3) to assess the compatibility with the internal market of a tax measure that […]

In Brief: Case C-518/13 Eventech and Case T-1/12 France v Commission

Lady Justice
A quick look at the two new rulings this week. This post gives a preliminary overview of the two new judgments this week (more in depth posts with analysis will be online soon!): On Wednesday 14th January the CJEU passed its ruling in the hotly awaited Eventech case (Case C-518/13), while a day later the General Court gave its word on […]

Another Measure that Cannot Be Justified by the Logic of the Tax System

airplanes on the airport
The granting of a tax exception is often found to constitute State aid. But the non-levying of a tax may also fall within the scope of Article 107(1). Competitors have more rights when the Commission does not open the formal investigation procedure.   Introduction  On 25 November 2014, the Court of Justice, in case T-512/11, Ryanair v European Commission, annulled […]

An Important Project of Common European Interest

Infrastructure projects which are economic in nature are subject to State aid scrutiny regardless of their importance. However, public funding of transport networks which are open to all users does not constitute State aid. Introduction State aid approval of important projects of common European interest is very rare. The joint Commission decisions SA.36558 and SA.38371 [Denmark] and SA.36662 [Sweden] concerning the […]

In Brief: Case T-58/13, Club Hotel Loutraki AE and Others v Commission (judgment of 08.01.2015)

hotel pool
On Thursday the 8th January the GC dismissed all four pleas in the action for annulment of the Commission Decision finding that the exclusive rights granted to operate 35 000 Video Lottery Terminals and 13 games of chance were not State aid.   The case is can be accessed here (English and French versions currently available) and the press release here.  Background to […]

Two Europes and a single SAM

sheeps
Keeping the flock together: A response to discussions on the GBER and SAM at ESTALI Vienna.   Maria Ortiz is a technician for the Valencian Institute of Business Competitiveness (IVACE). The views expressed in this post are purely those of the author and may not in any circumstances be regarded as stating an official position of IVACE.   Two weeks ago, the […]

State aid in 2015 – Court’s diary and events

gavel
Wishing all our readers and contributors a very happy 2015, this post takes look at the Court’s diary for January and some events in coming months. This is a quick post firstly to thank everybody who has been part of the StateAidHub for their support so far and to wish all our readers an excellent year ahead. If you are interested […]

Application of the Market Economy Investor Principle to a Company Processing Agricultural Products

When a public entity injects fresh capital in a company in which it is already a shareholder, the new capital does not constitute State aid when it satisfies three conditions: i) all shareholders contribute in proportion to the shares they own, ii) the private participation is simultaneous and iii) the private participation is economically significant. Introduction   In this article […]

A Surprising Interpretation of the Concept of Selectivity

Tax measures are selective when they constitute an exception or deviation from the normal or common system of taxation. In addition, the exception must be open only to a pre-defined category of undertakings. IntroductionOften, the decisive element in whether a tax measure constitutes State aid is the existence of selectivity. On 7 November 2014, the General Court ruled on two […]

The First Application of the New GBER to Sport Infrastructure

trafic sign
Public funding of local sport infrastructure may constitute State aid. The granting of a concession contract for the construction and/or operation of the infrastructure may not exclude State aid for the concessionaire. Measures based on the new GBER have to satisfy both its general and specific provisions. The funding gap method can be used in the context of the GBER. […]

In Brief: T‑57/11 Castelnou Energía v Commission (judgment of 03.12.2014)

burning coal
On Wednesday 3rd December the GC found Spanish aid granted to coal power plants to secure supply to be compatible State aid (judgment not yet available in English). After a busy day at the EStALI Autumn Workshop yesterday (we’ll give you all the hubbub from that as well as the conference later today), the following is a preliminary post on […]

Tax Rulings and State Aid: Now or Never

apple fiat starbucks
This comment looks at the Commission’s decisions to open in-depth investigations into the tax treatment of Apple, Starbucks and Fiat Finance and Trade by Ireland, The Netherlands and Luxembourg.   The European Commission has recently opened three in-depth investigations under Article 108(2) TFEU concerning tax rulings in Ireland, The Netherlands and Luxembourg with regard to the corporate income tax to be paid by Apple, Starbucks […]

Case T-512/11 Ryanair : Commission’s ATT Ireland Decision Partly Annulled (ATT Act I)

On Tuesday (25.11.2014) the General Court delighted the StateAidHub team by dishing out a shiny new ruling just in time for our launch date. Here’s a quick first look at the ruling. This post takes a preliminary look at Case T-512/11 Ryanair Ltd v Commission.This is only one of the appeals being brought against the Commission’s dabblings with the Irish Air […]

Land Transactions: Commercial Deals v Regulatory Acts

Regulation on land use or changes in such regulations do not constitute State aid. Administrative methods for calculating the value of public land do not necessarily prevent the granting of State aid if they do not reflect the evolution in market valuations.   Introduction  Many local authorities own land or regulate the use of land. They also sell or buy […]

Driving in the wrong direction? The opening decision in Fiat

fiat
What are we to make of the Commission’s decision to open an in-depth investigation into the tax treatment of Fiat Finance and Trade (FFT) by Luxembourg? In late September 2014, the Commission published its decision to open an in-depth State aid investigation in relation to the tax treatment of Fiat Finance and Trade (FFT) by Luxembourg. This investigation is part of the […]

Recovery of State Aid and Penalty for Failing to Recover Incompatible Aid

Extension of an existing aid measure results in the granting of new aid. Only conditions of absolute impossibility can justify non-recovery of incompatible aid. Member States have to exhaust all possible options to recover incompatible aid and, if necessary, have to force the closure of the recipient of the aid. IntroductionIn this article I examine two recent judgments both of […]

State Aid for Nuclear Power: No Thanks! Maybe? Yes Please!

The Commission’s decision on the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station of 8th October 2014 and what this might mean for the approach to nuclear energy… In 2014, the European Commission adopted new Guidelines on State aid for energy and the environment. These were followed by the adoption of a new General Block Exemption Regulation that also included measures relating to energy […]

Reduction of Property Taxes and Electricity Tariffs

calculator
Relief from property tax is State aid even when the user of the property is involved in defence contracts. Providing cheaper electricity to a few manufacturers cannot be considered to be an appropriate measure for regional development. IntroductionThis article summarises several judgments which were delivered in October 2014. They concern a tax exemption in Spain and reduction of electricity tariffs […]

The Market Economy Investor Test Applied to a Financially Troubled Company

SAS Airbus
Public funding of an undertaking is free of State aid when it is accompanied at the same time and on equivalent terms by similar private funding. If public funding is provided at the insistence of the private investors, it cannot be considered to be “pari passu” with the private participation. Public funding into a financially troubled company can still be […]

A Measure is Selective if its Application is Narrower than the Scope of the Objective it Seeks to Achieve

Atomium Monument
A measure is attributed to a decision of a Member State if it is allowed but not mandated by an EU directive. A measure is selective when in practice it is open to fewer undertakings than the ones to which it can potentially apply by its own defined objectives. Introduction   This article examines Commission Decision 2014/686 on a guarantee […]

i) State Aid Can Be Attributed to the State even when Granted via Faulty Procedures ii) Who Can Challenge a Commission Decision Authorising State Aid?

casino-gambling
For a measure to constitute State aid, it must, among other things, be attributed to a decision of the state. When a State aid granting decision is made in contravention of the procedural rules of an organisation controlled by the state, the decision can still be attributed to the state, unless it can be shown that the state would have […]

Advantage from High Entry Prices: Can It Be That Both the Commission and the General Court Have Misunderstood Simple Economics?

Athens casino
Price regulation can constitute State aid if the state forgoes potential revenue. However, for price regulation to constitute State aid it must satisfy all of the criteria in Article 107(1). Price regulation that affects all competitors proportionately does not confer an advantage and therefore does not constitute State aid. Introduction   On 11 September 2014, the General Court, in case […]

i) Domestic Legal Problems Do Not Make the Recovery of Incompatible Aid Absolutely Impossible ii) Role of National Courts in Cases of Non-notified Aid

The only defence for non-recovery of incompatible State aid is absolute impossibility. Obstacles in domestic legal proceedings may result in absolute impossibility, but Member States have an obligation to inform the Commission and national courts have to seek guidance from the Court of Justice of the European Union. Introduction   This article deals with two aspects of the recovery of […]

The Jurisdictional Side of Selectivity

Lady Justice
A measure determined independently by similar public entities is not selective even if it varies across those entities. A measure is selective when the entity that has adopted it, applies it differently to undertakings which are within its jurisdiction and in a comparable situation. A public entity may differentiate its measures provided the differentiation can be objectively justified. Introduction   […]

Restructuring Aid Approved on Condition that the Beneficiary Is Sold to Highest Bidder

corporate building
The Commission has wide discretion in assessing the compatibility of State aid with the internal market. Each case is assessed on its own merits and, therefore, the Commission is not bound by precedents or decisions on previous cases. Sale of shares held by public authorities may be required if divestment is necessary for long-term viability of aid beneficiary. Introduction   […]

Simultaneity of Investments by Public and Private Investors is a Necessary but not Sufficient Condition for Public Investments to be Free of State Aid

coins
If a public authority guarantees a loan to a company that is in financial difficulty and charges a low premium, the whole loan, not just the difference between the market rate of premium and the rate actually charged, will be considered to be State aid. Simultaneous capital injection by public and private investors is not enough to eliminate State aid […]

Not Surprisingly, Another Member State Fails to Prove Compliance with the Altmark Criteria

slaughterhouse
Maintaining capacity that is necessary for the provision of normal services cannot be classified as a service of general economic interest. State aid may not be granted towards the costs of cleaning up pollution caused by the aid recipient itself. State aid to a legal monopoly may still affect trade if there is competition for the monopoly rights or if […]

Compensatory Payments Can be State Aid

Tractor on a field
Article 107(1) also applies to payments that offset the damage caused by natural disasters. It is irrelevant that the compensation is partial or that competitors did not suffer similar damage. A measure can be State aid even if it is partially or wholly funded by private resources. It is sufficient that the resources come under state control. A measure is […]

Levying Taxes to Fund Public Broadcasters

broadcast tower
Taxes may not be examined by the Commission in the context of Article 107 even if they finance State aid measures. By contrast, the Commission may examine a tax in the context of its assessment of the compatibility of aid with the internal market when the tax is inseparable from an aid measure. A tax is inseparable from an aid […]

A Textbook Case of i) How to Sell Public Assets without Passing on Incompatible State Aid to the Buyer, and ii) How to Work together with the Commission

handshake
An undertaking that has received incompatible State aid must pay it back or, if it cannot, it must be liquidated. Before a recipient of possibly incompatible State aid is liquidated, its assets can be sold off to the highest bidder. The buyer of previously subsidised assets does not benefit from State aid if i) it pays a market price and […]

Management of Port Infrastructure through a very long Concession Contract: Is the Funding Gap Method Meaningful?

port
Competitive selection of the operator of an infrastructural facility normally eliminates State aid. However, modifications to the contract after the operator is selected may confer an advantage that constitutes State aid. Public funding that is calculated on the basis of the “funding gap” method ensures that the aid is necessary and proportional. Introduction   Several recent articles in the blog […]

The Profitability of an Investment Must be Determined Ex Ante

invest graph
Internal transfer of capital which is not used to fund new economic activities is not State aid. Injection of fresh capital to satisfy solvency and liquidity requirements still has to comply with State aid rules. A private investor always has the option of not injecting new capital and may opt instead to close down the business. A private investor always […]

Benchmarks of Profitability for Private Investors

movie production
A public authority that injects capital in an undertaking [or provides any other kind of finance] must ensure that the funding can achieve the rate of return that can, in principle, satisfy a private investor. The rate that can satisfy a private investor and ensure that the funding is free of State aid is the rate that covers the cost of […]

Sale of Public Assets, SGEI and Electricity Levies

Electrical grid
Revenue from levies on electricity users is most likely to constitute State resources. Public service obligations can be transferred from one electricity-generating company to another. Compensation for public service obligations may distinguish between controllable and uncontrollable costs. Performance benchmarking can be used as a means for inducing efficiency. Electricity levies may not directly or indirectly discriminate against imported electricity. Introduction   This is a […]

Capital Injection that Turns out to be Incompatible State Aid

skiing equipment
Public authorities and the entities they control need to ensure that injection of public money in an undertaking must satisfy the market economy investor principle, otherwise it will be considered to be State aid. Public funding of an undertaking in difficulty has to be preceded by an ex ante assessment that can show that either the recipient will be turned around […]

The New General Block Exemption Regulation: The Cornerstone of the State Aid Regime, 2014-2020

office table
The new GBER at a glance Common Provisions: aid must be transparent, must have incentive effect, rules on cumulation, and aid measures and awards must be published. Specific Provisions: Thirteen categories and many types of aid. Exclusions: no export aid, no mandated use of domestic products, no aid to firms in difficulty, no provisions that violate EU law, and no aid to […]

Land Development without State Aid

construction site
Activities which are part of the performance of public duties are non-economic in nature [e.g. spatial development]. Public funding of these activities does not constitute State aid. The transfer of resources from one level of government to another is transfer between public authorities and does not constitute State aid. Competitive selected developers obtain no advantage. Purchasers of subsidised assets who pay market prices […]

Transparency Is also Needed at the European Commission Level

EU flags
As more State aid measures in the future will be granted on the basis of the General Block Exemption Regulation, Member States will have to make the aid they grant more transparent. More transparency should prevent the granting of State aid that is incompatible with the internal market. However, Member States should also be assisted in identifying which public measures may contain […]

A JESSICA-Funded Public-Private Partnership

construction site
Public funding of a public-private partnership for the construction and maintenance of public schools may still involve State Aid. State Aid may have an incentive effect even when it is granted to a project that has already started. The funding gap method can demonstrate the necessity and proportionality of State Aid. Introduction   This article reviews Commission Decision SA.37168 concerning the construction […]

Price Discounts and Compensation for Public Service Obligations: A Case of Questionable Need for Aid

school busses
SGEI can be defined and public service obligations can be imposed only when the market underprovides. The parameters of compensation must be determined in advance. Public service compensation may not exceed the next extra costs of the SGEI or PSO. Member States are free to devise their own method of compensation, but irrespective of the method used, compensation must comply with the basic […]

The Cost of not Recovering Incompatible Aid

Flag of Spain
The Commission is not obliged to quantify precisely the amount of aid that has to be recovered. The Member State that fails to recover incompatible aid or fails to recover all of it risks legal action against both before national and EU courts. The Commission may initiate infringement proceedings and request the Court of Justice to impose penalties against the failing Member […]

The Importance of Precise Definition of Public Service Obligations

ship
The imposition of a public service obligation must be preceded by market analysis that shows that the market underprovides. For compensation of public service obligations to be compatible aid, it must satisfy the first three Altmark criteria. Surprisingly, the first three Altmark criteria must also be satisfied [in addition to the 4th criterion] for public service compensation in order not to constitute […]

Market Operator in Electricity Distribution: Long-term Purchasing Agreements Must Balance Risks and Rewards

electricity wires
A market operator accepts to be bound in long-term contracts, which entail more risk because market conditions may change, only when he gets compensated with more certainty that costs will remain stable. Contractual clauses which vary from standard commercial practice are suspect. A measure can be selective even when it uses objective criteria to define eligible beneficiaries. Trade can be affected and competition […]

The Perils of Ex Post Compensation of Public Services Obligations

bus
Providers of SGEI must maintain separate accounts. Parameters of compensation must be determined in advance. Ex-post formulation is not in conformity with State aid rules. Ex-post calculation of compensation that covers all costs and eliminates commercial risk is not compatible with State aid rules. Introduction   The calculation of the compensation to be offered to providers of services of general economic interest […]

The New Guidelines on State Aid for Environmental Protection and Energy, 2014-2020

recycle sign
The new guidelines are wider in scope: They also cover energy infrastructure, energy capacity and reductions from electricity levies. The new guidelines have higher thresholds for individual notifications. They allow higher aid intensity when aid is granted through competitive bidding. They require more rigorous application of the principles of necessity and proportionality of aid. Introduction   In 2012, the latest year for which […]

A Textbook Case of False Arguments: T-150/12, Greece v Commission

court building
Recipients of State aid obtain an advantage even if they do not succeed to improve their position on the market. Recipients of State aid obtain an advantage whenever their competitors in intra-EU trade do not receive the same aid from the same source. Even small amounts of aid can disturb intra-EU trade where there is strong cross-border competition. The European Commission is not […]

Two Judgments: a) Unlimited State Guarantees and b) The Discretion of the Commission in Restructuring Measures

gavel
Unlimited state guarantees are never compatible with the internal market. The existence of an unlimited guarantee and its benefits can be inferred from the relevant legal context in which the state assumes certain obligations towards creditors. The Commission may impose both structural and behavioural remedies on recipients of restructuring aid These remedies may cover sectors other than the main sector in which […]

The Importance of a Correct Framing of the Private Creditor and Private Investor Tests

people in backlight
A public authority acting as private creditor must exhaust all legally available means of recovering money owed to it. A private creditor may agree to an amicable arrangement – depending on the complexity and duration of legal proceedings, the value of the collateral it holds and the chances of long-term viability of the debtor – if it results in repayment of […]

Guidance on the Application of Regulation 1370/2007 on Passenger Transport Services

train entering station
Public service obligations may only be imposed where the market does not provide adequate services in terms of price and/or quality. The selection of service providers must respect the principles of openness, transparency and non-discrimination, even when public procurement procedures may not apply. Compensation must be based on contracts which contain a precise definition of the public service and parameters on how […]

Competitive Elements in the Selection of Operators of Sports Infrastructure May not Be Enough to Eliminate State Aid

sport arena seats
The existence of an advantage cannot be excluded when the operator of an infrastructural facility is chosen through a competitive procedure which combines price with other selection criteria. The users of a subsidised infrastructural facility who pay a market fee may still derive an advantage when the facility is designed and/or reserved for certain usage. Introduction   Ever since the Leipzig-Halle […]

Public Funding of Projects that Encounter Financial Problems

motorway
Aid that is granted after the start of a project lacks incentive effect and is, therefore, incompatible with the internal market. However, aid may be justified when a project runs into financial trouble and, as a result, is likely to be abandoned without the aid. Introduction   In two decisions in December 2013, the European Commission authorised State aid for two […]

SMEs Linked through Natural Persons

corporate building
Two or more enterprises may constitute a single undertaking when their owners and/or managers are related in a way that they can act jointly to exercise influence over the decision of those enterprises. Introduction   On 27 February 2014, the Court of Justice rendered a judgment on the notion of “linked enterprises” following a request for preliminary ruling from a […]

The New Guidelines on State Aid to Airports and Airlines: Problematic Issues (part 2)

man looking airplane takeoff
Introduction Last week I reviewed the main provisions of the new Guidelines on State Aid to Airports and Airlines. This week I focus on three issues which are either not well explained or too ambiguous, leaving too much room for creative interpretation. [1] Investment funding gap The new Guidelines, like the other new rules, stress that aid must have an incentive […]

The New Guidelines on State Aid to Airports and Airlines (part 1)

man looking airplane takeoff
Introduction[1] One more set of State aid rules for 2014-20 has been adopted. On Thursday, 20 February 2014, the Commission published its Guidelines on State Aid to Airports and Airlines.[2] The other main substantive rules which are already in place are the following, in chronological order:[3] The package on services of general economic interest (SGEI): A Communication, a Decision (like a […]

The Role of National Courts in Recovery of Incompatible State Aid

court house
Introduction In December I examined the judgment in the case of Lufthansa v Frankfurt-Hahn, which laid down certain obligations for national courts whenever they are petitioned to suspend and even recover aid that happens to be at the same time under investigation by the Commission. In this article I review the judgment of the Court of Justice of 13 February […]

An Assessment of the State Aid Consistency of Financial Instruments Supported by Structural and Investment Funds (Regulation 1303/2013)

coins on the table
Introduction Last week I reviewed the new State aid guidelines on risk finance. This week I will examine the provisions on financial instruments in the new structural and investment funds regulation. The regulation was published in the Official Journal just before Christmas. Both sets of rules have been updated on the basis of similar principles. The primary aim of both […]

Guidelines on State Aid to Promote Risk Finance Investments

financial graph
Introduction   On 15 January the Commission adopted the fourth set of guidelines for the programming period 2014-2020 [the first three were those on broadband, SGEI, and regional aid]. The latest guidelines replaced those on risk capital for SMEs. What is immediately noticeable from the title of the new guidelines is that they are not confined only to funding in […]

Services of General Economic Interest and Horse Racing

horse racing
Introduction Public authorities often argue that the activities they support are important and that they should be considered as services of general economic interest. However, in many cases they are not. In this article I review the Commission Decision 2014/19 concerning a parafiscal levy that was intended to fund supposedly public service obligations assigned to French horse racing companies.[1] This Decision […]

The Possibly Conflicting Roles of EU Institutions on State Aid

EU flag
Introduction On 10 December 2013, the Court of Justice, in C‑272/12 P, wrote another chapter in the long-running case of the exemption from excise taxes for alumina producers in France, Ireland and Italy. This is not the last chapter. The Court annulled a judgment of the General Court and referred the case back to the General Court. In fact this […]

The Non-Equivalence of the Various Methods of Supporting Green Electricity

electrical sockets
Introduction Ever since the judgment of the Court of Justice in 2001 on PreussenElektra [case C-379/98], Member States have been grappling with the question of how to support electricity from renewable resources [green electricity] without granting State aid. In PreussenElektra the Court found that there was no transfer of state resources and no State aid, because the German government imposed […]

The New Rules on De minimis Aid for 2014-2020: Regulation 1407/2013

EU comission
Introduction[1] It is appropriate to start this year’s articles on State aid with an appraisal of one of the most important new legislative items for the period 2014-2020: the new de minimis rules. The European Commission adopted the new de minimis Regulation in mid-December and the formal text was published just before Christmas in the Official Journal of 24 December […]

Economically Rational Environmental Aid

water processing plant
Introduction A few months ago I wrote an article on this blog explaining the big puzzle of environmental State aid. Since the rules allow State aid which is only a proportion of the extra costs incurred by companies investing in environmentally friendly technology, it is puzzling why they make this investment. After all, they have the option of not incurring […]

Why Can the Commission Not be Consistent in its Analysis of Economic Activity and Affectation of Trade?

antique monument
Introduction If you ask a national official who deals with State aid to identify the most challenging aspects of working with State aid rules, the answer is likely to be “the concept of undertaking” and the “effect on trade”. Other aspects can