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.

Join the debate now!

- General Court Economic Activities ×

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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.   […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Developments on the Concepts of Advantage and Selectivity

airplane
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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

- General Court Economic Activities ×

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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.   […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Developments on the Concepts of Advantage and Selectivity

airplane
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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

- General Court Economic Activities ×

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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.   […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Developments on the Concepts of Advantage and Selectivity

airplane
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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

How to Submit a Blog Post

Do you want to share your analysis of a State aid law topic? We invite you to submit your post on, for example: recent European, national or international judgments or legislation with relevance to EU State aid law; new developments, publications, hot topics in EU State aid law. The recommended length of the post is 500-2,000 words incl. references (endnotes). Your analysis will be published under the category ‘Guest State Aid Blog’.

Here’s how you can publish a post on the Blog as a guest author:

Step 1: Submit your draft post as a Word file to stateaidhub[a]lexxion.eu.

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Step 3: Once your draft has been finalised and accepted, we will send you a link to register and log-in to the Blog as a guest author.

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