The European Commission has widened the scope of the 2014 General Block Exemption Regulation, introducing a new exemption from the obligation to notify state aid measures to the Commission for maritime ports, inland ports and airports. The main conditions for such exemption are the following:
– The aid cannot exceed a certain absolute threshold (between €40 million and €150 million), depending on whether the project concerns a maritime port or an inland port and whether the port is included in a core network corridor under the TEN-T Regulation.
– The aid does not go beyond what is necessary to trigger the investment, taking into account future revenues from the investment (i.e. aid can only cover the “funding gap”).
– Only a certain percentage of the investment costs can be subsidized (depending on the size and the nature of the investment and on whether the port is located in a remote region).
– Only investment costs are eligible for aid (with the exception of dredging, for which both investment and maintenance costs are eligible for aid).
– Concessions to third parties for the construction, maintenance, operation or rent of port infrastructures must be assigned on a competitive, transparent, non-discriminatory and unconditional basis.
For small projects in ports, the Regulation lays down more flexible rules for investment aid.