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Commission simplifies rules for public investment in ports and airports, culture and the outermost regions.
The European Commission has approved today new state aid rules that exempt certain public support measures for ports, airports, culture and the outermost regions from prior Commission scrutiny. The objective is to facilitate public investment for job creation and growth whilst preserving competition.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: "We want to ensure that companies can compete on equal terms in the Single Market – and we want to do so in the most efficient way. EU state aid rules are the same for all Member States. Today's changes will save them time and trouble when investing in ports and airports, culture and the EU's outermost regions, whilst preserving competition.
The 2014 'General Block Exemption Regulation' 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, about 95% of state aid measures implemented by Member States are now exempted. For example, in the area of research, development and innovation the number of state aid notifications has halved since 2014
The Commission has now extended the scope of this Regulation to ports and airports, following two public consultations.
As regards airports, Member States can now make public investments in regional airports handling up to three million passengers per year with full legal certainty and without prior control by the Commission. This will facilitate public investment in more than 420 airports across the EU.
The Regulation also allows public authorities to cover operating costs of small airports handling up to 200.000 passengers per year. These small airports account for almost half of all airports in the EU but only 0.75% of air traffic. While they can make an important contribution to the connectivity of a region they are unlikely to distort competition in the EU Single Market.
With regard to ports, Member States will can make public investments of up to 150 million in sea ports and up to 50 million euros in inland ports with full legal certainty and without prior control by the Commission. The Regulation allows public authorities to cover the costs of dredging in ports and access waterways.
The initiative aims to reduce administrative burdens for public authorities and other stakeholders in the context of the Commission's Regulatory Fitness and Performance of EU Legislation (REFIT) agenda. It forms part of the Commission's effort to focus state aid control on bigger cases that significantly impact competition in the Single Market, to the greatest benefit of consumers. It complements several initiatives the Commission has taken over the past two years to modernise State aid enforcement. The objective of these initiatives is to further facilitate public investment in support of our common goals on jobs and growth, climate, innovation and social cohesion.
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