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  October 19th, 2016 | Written by

EU: Exempting State Support for Ports and Airports From Scrutiny

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  • A 2014 EU regulation enabled member states to implement many state aid measures without prior approval.
  • 90 percent of all state aid measures in the EU are implemented without prior EC approval.
  • The European Commission is proposing to widen the scope of a state aid reg to ports and airports.

The European Commission is inviting comments on its proposal to revise the criteria for exempting certain investment aid for ports and airports from prior scrutiny under EU state aid rules. It aims to facilitate public investments that can create jobs and growth while preserving competition.

A first public consultation on draft provisions to extend the 2014 General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER) to ports and airports took place from March to May 2016. In light of views and comments received, the commission has updated the proposal.

“We have received valuable input to design rules that ensure that public investments can go ahead as quickly as possible without distorting competition,” said Margrethe Vestager, the commissioner in charge of competition policy. “This is important for ports and airports that play a central role for economic growth and regional development.”

The 2014 GBER enabled member states to implement a wide range of state aid measures without prior commission approval because they are unlikely to distort competition. As a result, 90 percent of all state aid measures (with a combined annual expenditure of over $36 billion) are implemented by member states under this regulation, and the total number of state aid measures notified by member states for approval dropped by two thirds. The commission is now proposing to further widen the scope of the GBER to facilitate unproblematic state support to ports and airports.

As a result of the first public consultation on this initiative, the commission has included further simplifications for small investments in ports (below $5.5 million for seaports or below $2.2 million for inland ports). The commission has also enlarged the scope of the provisions for very small airports. These are allowed to receive investment aid based on more flexible criteria because support to those airports is less likely to distort competition.

The commission also wants to make it easier for public authorities to compensate companies for the additional costs they face operating in the EU’s outermost regions so that support measures can take better account of the challenges of these companies. As a result of the first public consultation, the commission has further simplified the rules to support those companies.