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.

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- Article 107 TFEU ×

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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, […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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.   […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

- Article 107 TFEU ×

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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, […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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.   […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

- Article 107 TFEU ×

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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, […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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.   […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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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