Europäisches Beihilfenrecht Blog

State Aid Uncovered Blog/Guest State Aid Blog

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

Join the debate now!

- PSO ×

EU Decisions Override National Decisions on Compensation for Public Service Obligations

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

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 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 […]

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 […]

The Scope of Public Service Obligations

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

Public Service Obligations and Award for Damages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 […]

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 […]

- PSO ×

EU Decisions Override National Decisions on Compensation for Public Service Obligations

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

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 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 […]

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 […]

The Scope of Public Service Obligations

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

Public Service Obligations and Award for Damages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 […]

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 […]

- PSO ×

EU Decisions Override National Decisions on Compensation for Public Service Obligations

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

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 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 […]

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 […]

The Scope of Public Service Obligations

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

Public Service Obligations and Award for Damages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 […]

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 […]

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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