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Learnings from the Commission’s Initial State Aid Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak journal article

Paula Riedel, Thomas Wilson, Shane Cranley

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 19 (2020), Issue 2, Page 115 - 126

Against the background of the COVID-19 outbreak and the effects of public health measures on Member State economies, the Commission has acted impressively quickly to prevent State aid rules becoming a block to necessary interventions. The Commission has published a Temporary Framework under Article 107(3)(b) TFEU, which has been amended twice including to allow for recapitalisation of firms in return for State participation. Aid under this Temporary Framework along with a wide range of measures approved under Article 107 TFEU has allowed billions in aid to be granted, ensuring that liquidity is available to companies. This liquidity has avoided mass bankruptcies but comes with the risk of distortions of competition across the internal market; a risk augmented by the differences in approach of the Member States. As Member States exit the initial phase of the response to the crisis focused on liquidity, and move to more structural measures such as recapitalisations, we can expect the design of aid to be monitored even more closely to minimise market distortions. The Commission’s initial response has been flexible, swift and pragmatic and is to be lauded but many potential pitfalls remain as the crisis moves to the next phase.  Keywords: COVID-19, Temporary Framework, recapitalisation, distortion of competition

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