Strategies for handling EU state aid rules
– casestudies on energy projects
Open markets are generally regulated for different reasons. In the EU, the state support rules are important for the development of the inner market. The aim is to prevent overcompensation which distorts the market. This report describes and analyses the strategies applied by four different countries in connection to EU state aid rules in the area of environment and energy. The countries are Finland, the Netherlands, Hungary and the United Kingdom, and the report presents seven different state aid cases.
Each case study describes the policy in the countries and how this has been realised and implemented in the specific cases. If there have been doubts whether the national aid complies with EU state aid rules, various factors that have contributed to the approval of the European Commission are identified. However, in one of the cases described in the report, the Commission has not yet reached a decision. Undoubtedly, some of the experiences described in this report may be relevant and transferable to Swedish conditions.
The important factors raised by the respondents in the case studies are:
- Government commitment is necessary to make a successful case, and it might be important to highlight the issue as a major national concern
- The expert public authority should take the lead, but let the Government department responsible for state aid be the entry point to the Commission
- Explain whether there are specific national conditions that differ from conditions in the rest of Europe
- Political pressure can help where there is still room for changes
- The state support rules are handled as a negotiation process in some countries. The country can hence directly suggest a commitment in case of negative decisions from the Commission
- The individuals involved from the enterprise side should be people quite close to the actual issue and have a good understanding of state aid rules
- The applicant should interact also with other Directorial Generals (DG’s) than Directorial General Competition DG COMP, especially in technical matters where DG COMP might not have the expertise
- The Commission appreciate commitments or binding promises that involve, or may involve, economic benefits for the Member States
- Procurement can play a role when there are doubts whether the compensation includes state aid
In cases involving ownership or powerful economic interests from non-EU countries, other considerations that complicate the approval of the Commission will apply. Finally, if the issue itself is controversial, in the sense that its implementation may encounter political resistance outside the applicant country, the dialogue with the Commission might be different.