On 17 May 2017 the European Commission announced new State aid rules for certain public support measures for ports, airports, culture, sports arenas and the outermost regions by simplifying and widening the scope of the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER). The GBER sets out the conditions under which Member States can implement certain State aid measures without prior notification to the Commission because these measures are unlikely to distort competition.

The new rules provide that:

(i) Investment aid to regional airports with average annual passenger traffic of up to 3 million passengers, and aid covering the operating costs of small airports handling up to 200,000 passengers per year will automatically be exempted from notification;10

(ii) Aid to ports will be exempted from the notification requirement for (i) public investments of up to €150 million in sea ports and up to €50 million in inland ports and (ii) the costs of dredging in ports and access waterways;

(iii) The threshold for investment aid for culture and heritage conservation is raised from €100 million to €150 million per project, and from €50 million to €75 million per undertaking per year; and

(iv) The notification threshold for investment aid for sport and multi-functional recreational infrastructure is also increased (i.e. total costs of €100 million per project).

In addition, the criteria for exemption of aids to compensate companies operating in the EU's outermost regions for their additional costs are clarified.

The initiative is designed to reduce administrative burdens for public authorities and other stakeholders in the context of the Commission's Regulatory Fitness and Performance of EU Legislation (REFIT) agenda. It forms part of the Commission's efforts to focus its State aid control on bigger cases that significantly impact competition in the internal market.