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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- SGEI ×

Non-economic Activities and Services of General Economic Interest

Non-economic tasks and economic activities which are inseparable from those non-economic tasks are together, as a bundle, non-economic in nature. Public compensation for the extra costs of services of general economic interest [SGEI] may not cross-subsidise activities that fall outside the scope of the SGEI. Update on Temporary Framework: Number of approved and published covid-19 measures, as of 11 September […]

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

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

Not Every Compensation Is a Compensation in the Meaning of Altmark

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

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

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

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

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

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 the […]

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

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

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 […]

Activities Linked to State Prerogatives

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

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 […]

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. […]

State Aid is on the Agenda: Deal or No Deal

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

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

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

PART II: Combining Infrastructure Aid with SGEI Aid

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

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

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

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

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

Nature Conservation as a Service of General Economic Interest

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

The Perennial Altmark Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Levying Taxes to Fund Public Broadcasters

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

Sale of Public Assets, SGEI and Electricity Levies

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

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

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

The Importance of Precise Definition of Public Service Obligations

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

The Perils of Ex Post Compensation of Public Services Obligations

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

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

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

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

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

Guidelines on State Aid to Promote Risk Finance Investments

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

Services of General Economic Interest and Horse Racing

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

Tax Hypothecation and Economic Efficiency under Altmark: T-275/11, French Television 1 v Commission

television
Background France Télévisions is a limited company wholly owned by the French State. As France abolished advertising on public television, it also decided to provide financial compensation to France Télévisions. For this reason it introduced new taxes to generate revenue for the compensation: a tax on advertising and a tax on electronic communications. In January 2009, France notified to the […]

New Case Law on Incentive Effect, “Private Borrower”, Advantage, Compensation, SGEI and Market Failure

gavel on a laptop
Introduction   The posting reviews three recent rulings of the General Court. They are significant because they introduce substantial nuances in the case law concerning the concepts of incentive effect, compensation for structural impediment, the designation of an activity as a service of general economic interest (SGEI) and the connection between market failure and SGEI. On the whole, the Court […]

Altmark and Public Procurement: Definition and Award of Contracts

handshake
Introduction Ever since the Court of Justice ruled on Altmark ten years ago there has been a growing literature on the specific conditions that have to be satisfied so that public assistance to a provider of services of general economic interest [SGEI] does not constitute state aid. In this context, the relationship between the Altmark criteria and the public procurement […]

Restrictions on Sale of Land and Social Housing

hands holding house model
Introduction This posting reviews the judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union in two joined cases: Eric Libert, et al v Gouvernement Flamand, (C‑197/11) and All Projects & Developments NV and Others v Vlaamse Regering, (C‑203/11).[1] The judgment which was rendered on 8 May 2013 is important because it addresses several issues concerning public service obligations, their relationship with […]

- SGEI ×

Non-economic Activities and Services of General Economic Interest

Non-economic tasks and economic activities which are inseparable from those non-economic tasks are together, as a bundle, non-economic in nature. Public compensation for the extra costs of services of general economic interest [SGEI] may not cross-subsidise activities that fall outside the scope of the SGEI. Update on Temporary Framework: Number of approved and published covid-19 measures, as of 11 September […]

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

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

Not Every Compensation Is a Compensation in the Meaning of Altmark

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

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

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

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

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

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 the […]

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

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

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 […]

Activities Linked to State Prerogatives

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

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 […]

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. […]

State Aid is on the Agenda: Deal or No Deal

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

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

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

PART II: Combining Infrastructure Aid with SGEI Aid

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

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

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

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

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

Nature Conservation as a Service of General Economic Interest

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

The Perennial Altmark Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Levying Taxes to Fund Public Broadcasters

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

Sale of Public Assets, SGEI and Electricity Levies

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

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

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

The Importance of Precise Definition of Public Service Obligations

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

The Perils of Ex Post Compensation of Public Services Obligations

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

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

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

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

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

Guidelines on State Aid to Promote Risk Finance Investments

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

Services of General Economic Interest and Horse Racing

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

Tax Hypothecation and Economic Efficiency under Altmark: T-275/11, French Television 1 v Commission

television
Background France Télévisions is a limited company wholly owned by the French State. As France abolished advertising on public television, it also decided to provide financial compensation to France Télévisions. For this reason it introduced new taxes to generate revenue for the compensation: a tax on advertising and a tax on electronic communications. In January 2009, France notified to the […]

New Case Law on Incentive Effect, “Private Borrower”, Advantage, Compensation, SGEI and Market Failure

gavel on a laptop
Introduction   The posting reviews three recent rulings of the General Court. They are significant because they introduce substantial nuances in the case law concerning the concepts of incentive effect, compensation for structural impediment, the designation of an activity as a service of general economic interest (SGEI) and the connection between market failure and SGEI. On the whole, the Court […]

Altmark and Public Procurement: Definition and Award of Contracts

handshake
Introduction Ever since the Court of Justice ruled on Altmark ten years ago there has been a growing literature on the specific conditions that have to be satisfied so that public assistance to a provider of services of general economic interest [SGEI] does not constitute state aid. In this context, the relationship between the Altmark criteria and the public procurement […]

Restrictions on Sale of Land and Social Housing

hands holding house model
Introduction This posting reviews the judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union in two joined cases: Eric Libert, et al v Gouvernement Flamand, (C‑197/11) and All Projects & Developments NV and Others v Vlaamse Regering, (C‑203/11).[1] The judgment which was rendered on 8 May 2013 is important because it addresses several issues concerning public service obligations, their relationship with […]

- SGEI ×

Non-economic Activities and Services of General Economic Interest

Non-economic tasks and economic activities which are inseparable from those non-economic tasks are together, as a bundle, non-economic in nature. Public compensation for the extra costs of services of general economic interest [SGEI] may not cross-subsidise activities that fall outside the scope of the SGEI. Update on Temporary Framework: Number of approved and published covid-19 measures, as of 11 September […]

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

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

Not Every Compensation Is a Compensation in the Meaning of Altmark

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

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

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

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

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

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 the […]

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

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

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 […]

Activities Linked to State Prerogatives

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

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 […]

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. […]

State Aid is on the Agenda: Deal or No Deal

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

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

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

PART II: Combining Infrastructure Aid with SGEI Aid

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

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

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

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

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

Nature Conservation as a Service of General Economic Interest

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

The Perennial Altmark Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Levying Taxes to Fund Public Broadcasters

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

Sale of Public Assets, SGEI and Electricity Levies

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

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

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

The Importance of Precise Definition of Public Service Obligations

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

The Perils of Ex Post Compensation of Public Services Obligations

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

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

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

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

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

Guidelines on State Aid to Promote Risk Finance Investments

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

Services of General Economic Interest and Horse Racing

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

Tax Hypothecation and Economic Efficiency under Altmark: T-275/11, French Television 1 v Commission

television
Background France Télévisions is a limited company wholly owned by the French State. As France abolished advertising on public television, it also decided to provide financial compensation to France Télévisions. For this reason it introduced new taxes to generate revenue for the compensation: a tax on advertising and a tax on electronic communications. In January 2009, France notified to the […]

New Case Law on Incentive Effect, “Private Borrower”, Advantage, Compensation, SGEI and Market Failure

gavel on a laptop
Introduction   The posting reviews three recent rulings of the General Court. They are significant because they introduce substantial nuances in the case law concerning the concepts of incentive effect, compensation for structural impediment, the designation of an activity as a service of general economic interest (SGEI) and the connection between market failure and SGEI. On the whole, the Court […]

Altmark and Public Procurement: Definition and Award of Contracts

handshake
Introduction Ever since the Court of Justice ruled on Altmark ten years ago there has been a growing literature on the specific conditions that have to be satisfied so that public assistance to a provider of services of general economic interest [SGEI] does not constitute state aid. In this context, the relationship between the Altmark criteria and the public procurement […]

Restrictions on Sale of Land and Social Housing

hands holding house model
Introduction This posting reviews the judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union in two joined cases: Eric Libert, et al v Gouvernement Flamand, (C‑197/11) and All Projects & Developments NV and Others v Vlaamse Regering, (C‑203/11).[1] The judgment which was rendered on 8 May 2013 is important because it addresses several issues concerning public service obligations, their relationship with […]

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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