The European Commission is inviting Member States and all other interested parties to comment on certain proposed amendments to the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER). The purpose of the proposed revision is to reflect the changes to various sets of State aid Guidelines, which are currently being reviewed and to further facilitate public support for the EU’s green and digital transition. The new rules will help set the right foundations for a sustainable economy in a time of recovery from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Member States and other interested parties can respond to the consultation until 8 December 2021.
Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, stated: “Our proposal aims at broadening the possibilities for Member States to implement aid measures supporting the green and digital transition without prior notification and approval by the Commission. This will make it easier and faster for Member States to provide such funding, without causing undue distortions of competition in the Single Market. We encourage all public authorities, companies and other interested parties to participate in this important consultation.“
The GBER declares specific categories of State aid compatible with the Treaty, provided that they fulfil certain conditions, and exempts these categories from the requirement of prior notification to and approval by the Commission.
Exempting certain aid from the obligation of prior notification to and approval by the Commission is a major simplification, which enables Member States to quickly provide aid, where conditions limiting the distortion of competition in the Single Market are met. It is important to find the right balance between block-exempting aid, subject to clear criteria to limit potential distortions of competition, and other State aid that needs to be assessed by the Commission before it can be implemented.
The rules laid down in the GBER are complementary to those set out in State aid Guidelines, which set the conditions under which the Commission assesses whether State aid measures that are not block-exempted and, therefore, need to be notified to it are compatible with the Single Market. Together, these two sets of rules form a comprehensive rulebook for certain areas of State aid law.
The Commission is therefore proposing a number of targeted changes to the GBER to reflect the changes in various sets of State aid Guidelines which are currently being reviewed (namely, the Regional Aid Guidelines, the Climate, Energy and Environmental State aid Guidelines, the Risk Finance Guidelines and the Research, Development and Innovation Framework). The aim of the ongoing revision of these Guidelines and of the proposed revision of the GBER is to promote public funding which contributes to the achievement of current EU priorities, notably the Green Deal and the European Industrial and Digital Strategies, and to ensure that State aid rules reflect the most recent market and technological developments.
In this context, the Commission is proposing a number of changes to the GBER in areas where also the corresponding State aid Guidelines are being revised. In particular:
- Aid for environmental protection and energy
- Aid for risk finance investment
- Aid for research, development and innovation
- Regional aid