New Exemption Possibilities for State aid in preperation

The European Commission has proposed to include ports and airports as an aid category in the General Block Exemption Regulation. In addition, the thresholds for aid to culture and heritage will be raised. The extension of the exemption possibilities under the GBER implies that local and regional authorities will have more elbow room to provide aid in a ‘state-aid proof’ manner. The extension is currently subject to a public consultation.

Extension of the GBER for (air)ports

Various aid categories have been included in the GBER. As yet, aid to ports and airports has not been included. The Commission would like to change that; therefore, it has proposed an amendment to the current GBER. One of the thresholds in this proposal is e.g. a maximum of 120 million Euros for investment aid for seaports. This proposal should make sure that the implementation of permitted state aid for ports and airports becomes less complex. As such, state aid for ports and airports need not be notified to the Commission anymore. If this aid falls under the proposed exemption, a simple notification will suffice.

Background

The proposal to include additional provisions in the GBER is based on the Commission’s experiences. All in all, the Commission made 33 state aid decisions with respect to ports, and another 54 state aid decisions with respect to airports. Just think of e.g. the recent state aid decisions regarding the large Dutch ports.

A broader scope fir cultural aid

Apart from an exemption for ports and airports, the Commission would also like to broaden the scope for cultural aid. Municipalities, Provincial authorities and water authorities often make use of the GBER if they want to provide aid for culture. In the new draft text, a broadening of the existing aid category for culture and heritage has been included. The thresholds for investment aid have been raised from 100 million Euros to 150 million Euros. The thresholds for operating aid have been raised from 50 million Euros to 75 million Euros.

In conformity with SAM

The amendments to the GBER have been proposed in the context of the Commission’s so-called State Aid Modernisation (SAM) programme. SAM is meant to align national state aid rules and procedures and to reduce the administrative burden. The current adjustments should also make sure that projects (which very unlikely have an anti-competitive effect) can proceed without any difficulties. Furthermore, this way, the Commission focuses more on aid measures that may really distort the market.

Public consultations

The first public consultation on the amendments to the GBER, was open between 7 March 2016 and 30 May 2016. Later this year, a second round of consultation will follow, as usual with respect to the amendment of these state aid directives. Local and regional authorities, just as citizens and companies, can give their opinion on the amendments to the GBER in both consultation rounds. Click here to view the consultation document.

By:

Petra Werkman and Paul Zondag, Europa decentraal