The European Commission adopted new measures in the light of the state aid modernization initiative
The European Commission adopted on May 21, 2014 a number of measures focusing on:
- facilitating the granting of state aid in view of supporting research, development and innovation activities;
- broadening of the scope of exemptions from giving prior notice to the Commission as concerns state aid granted to companies;
- new transparency requirements concerning state aid granted by Member States to undertakings.
The rules concerning state aid granted in view of supporting research, development and innovation activities are set out both in the new General Block Exemption Regulations (GBER), which establishes the thresholds up to which state aid may be granted without giving prior notice to the Commission, and in the new Community Framework for state aid for research, development and innovation, which sets forth the criteria based on which the actions requiring notification will be evaluated, in the event that such actions present higher risks of causing competitive distortions.
The Community Framework for state aid for research, development and innovation sets out state aids of up to 70% for large enterprises and 90% for small enterprises, which conduct activities whereby research is applied, also including costs related to prototypes and demonstrations. Moreover, state aids in large amounts co-financed by the EU will be presumed as being necessary and adequate. These regulations will become effective as of July 1, 2014.
As concerns the broadening of the scope of exemptions from giving prior notice to the Commission, the new General Block Exemption Regulation ensures more flexible eligibility conditions, more favorable maximal aid intensities and aids in larger amounts. In addition to these, new categories were exempted, such as state aids in the field of energy research and infrastructure, innovation centers, regional urban development funds, cultural heritage protection, audiovisual and sports or leisure activities.
In relation to the new transparency requirements concerning state aid, the Commission, by means of a Notice, establishes the alignment of these requirements, in that the Member States must publish on a specialized website all granted state aids exceeding the amount of Euro 500,000 together with the name of the beneficiary and the amount granted to it. Moreover, such publication must specify the date at which and the legal basis for which the state aid was granted, if the beneficiary is a SME or a large undertaking, its registered seat and the field in which it actively conducts its activity. This information will be made public within 6 months as of the granting of the state aid, being a requirement for the validity of its granting. These actions also concern fiscal aids. The Member States have two years as of the enactment of these regulations in order to develop an adequate system for ensuring the transparency of such information.