Europäisches Beihilfenrecht 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!

- GBER ×

2019 Competition Report

report
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 […]

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 […]

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

euro coins
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 […]

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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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.   […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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?

youtube screenshot
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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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

efta
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 […]

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 […]

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] […]

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 […]

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 […]

The First Application of the New GBER to Sport Infrastructure

traffic 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. […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

- GBER ×

2019 Competition Report

report
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 […]

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 […]

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

euro coins
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 […]

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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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.   […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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?

youtube screenshot
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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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

efta
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 […]

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 […]

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] […]

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 […]

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 […]

The First Application of the New GBER to Sport Infrastructure

traffic 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. […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

- GBER ×

2019 Competition Report

report
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 […]

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 […]

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

euro coins
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 […]

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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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.   […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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] […]

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 […]

Two Europes and a single SAM

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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 […]

The First Application of the New GBER to Sport Infrastructure

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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. […]

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

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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 […]

Transparency Is also Needed at the European Commission Level

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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 […]

Guidelines on State Aid to Promote Risk Finance Investments

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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 […]

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 as a guest author:

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

Step 2: The StateAidHub team will review your draft to make sure its content and quality fit the blog. If needed, they will suggest what improvements you should make.

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

Step 4: Once you have logged-in to the blog, you can upload and publish your post.

Step 5: Enjoy the fame!

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