As previously reported in Stibbe's Competition Law Newsletter of June 2012, the European Commission (the "Commission") launched a comprehensive reform of the State aid framework by adopting the Communication on "EU State aid modernisation (SAM)" on 8 May 2012. As part of the reform, the procedural framework on State aid is now subject to a revision that also extends to Council Regulation (EC) No 659/1999 of 22 March 1999 (the "Procedural Regulation"). Furthermore, the Commission will also review the Regulation 1998/2006 on the application of Articles 107 and 108 of the TFEU to de minimis aid.
The Procedural Regulation lays down detailed procedural rules on how to deal with State aid cases. One of the main purposes of the reform of the Procedural Regulation is to speed up the process of decision-making by the Commission. Next to this, the Commission's aim is to focus on cases with the highest impact at the EU level.
On 13 July 2012, the Commission started the consultation on the reform of the State aid procedural framework by issuing a questionnaire to collect the views of stakeholders on improving the handling of State aid complaints and information-gathering by the Commission when investigating cases of aid with a significant impact.
This consultation ends on 5 October 2012, after which the Commission will propose a revised regulation by December 2012. The revised regulation will then be submitted to the EU Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers.
As mentioned above, the de minimis Regulation is also under review. Pursuant to this Regulation, aid measures that do not exceed €200,000 are outside the scope of EU State aid control and are therefore not subject to the Commission's prior approval. The Commission will now assess whether the €200,000 threshold is still appropriate. This indicates that the Commission is considering increasing the threshold.
On 26 July 2012, the Commission issued a questionnaire to start the public consultation on the review process regarding the "de minimis" Regulation, which runs until 18 October 2012. The Commission will then prepare a revised draft regulation by the end of 2013.