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The European Commission Consults on the Review of State Aid Guidelines for Environmental Protection

The European Commission, Directorate General for Competition, is currently consulting Member States and stakeholders on the review of the Community guidelines on state aid for environmental protection and environmental support measures in the General Block Exemption Regulation (EC) No. 800/2008 (GBER)

The public consultation forms part of a wider reform initiated by the Commission in 2012. On 8 May 2012, the European Commission adopted a Communication on "EU State Aid Modernisation (SAM)" (COM(2012) 209 final). The purpose of the Communication is to pursue the continuous reform of state aids, and in particular: (1) foster growth in a strengthened, dynamic and competitive internal market (by reference to the Europe 2020 growth strategy); (2) focus enforcement on cases with the biggest impact on the internal market based on an ex-ante scrutiny, while reinforcing the Member States cooperation in state aid enforcement ; (3) procedures, with streamlined rules and faster decisions, in order to "deliver decisions within business-relevant timelines". The previous reform engaged in the period 2005-2009, the so-called State Aid Action Plan (SAAP), had similar objectives. 

The SAM reform should consequently be seen as a continuation of the former reform. It will focus on the following elements:

- identification of common principles for assessing the compatibility of aid with the internal market, following the different sector approaches;
- revision of the different state aid guidelines (Environmental aid, Regional aid, R&D&I, Regional Aid, Rsik Capital, Broadband, etc.)
- revision of the Block Exemption Regulation.

In addition, the reform aims to "clarify and better explain the notion of State aid" - which is laudable - , and modernise the Regulation of Procedural rules, with a particular focus on complaint-handling and market information tools. One should also note the emphasis put on the control of public spending, i.e. "phasing out of inefficient use of resources", which corresponds to the Commission's initiative on "Resource Efficient Europe".(COM(2011) 571 final) as well as a general effort to coordinate better national economic policies.

Finally, the agenda of the reform is also set by the expiry or renewal of a series of framework instruments:
- expiry of several state aid instruments by the end of 2013;
- forthcoming EU Multiannual Financial Framework;
- forthcoming EU Structural Funds rules for 2014-2020;
- strengthened economic and budgetary surveillance system.

The whole reform should be achieved by the end of 2013.

In order to gather information as regards environmental protection rules, the Commission is now consulting on the application of the currently applicable 2008 Environmental Aid Guidelines as well as of the environmental support measures contained in the General Block Exemption Regulation. The Environmental Aid Guidelines defines the criteria the European Commission will use when assessing the compatibility of the state aids, and the General Block Exemption Regulation sets the conditions to be met to be exempted from prior notification. The public consultation is available here.

The questions asked by the European Commission in the public consultation relate to: the general design and evolution of state aid measures as well as the application and adequacy of the Environmental Aid Guidelines (including definitions, scope of application, use of the different types of aid, monitoring and compliance) and of the GBER.

The deadline for submission of contributions to the public consultation is 23 October 2012.