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IFPEN: This is the End… of the French ‘EPIC’ State Aid Litigation Saga(s) · Joint Cases T-479/11 RENV and T-157/12 RENV IFPEN · Annotation by Jean-Alexandre Vaglio journal article

Annotation on the Judgment of the General Court (Eight Chamber) of 5 October 2020 in Joint Cases T-479/11 RENV and T-157/12 RENV French Republic and IFP Énergies nouvelles v European Commission

Jean-Alexandre Vaglio

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 20 (2021), Issue 1, Page 108 - 113

The General Court finally closed the IFPEN saga with its judgment delivered on 5 October 2020 and which raised many interesting points. First, IFPEN was peculiar in the sense that, contrary to EDF and La Poste, it was an EPIC undertaking pursuing mainly non-economic activities. Second, this judgment enables the General Court to refine and illustrate the simple presumption defined by the Court of Justice in the La Poste judgment on its EPIC status. Finally, this case provides another reminder of the burden of proof resting on the Commission when it demonstrates the existence of an advantage and defines the conditions of compatibility of a State aid measure.


‘Reversed’, ‘Excessive’ or Misconstrued? The Controversy About the Burden of Proof in MEOP Cases journal article

Małgorzata Cyndecka

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 18 (2019), Issue 2, Page 157 - 168

Following the landmark judgments in Ryanair of 2008, EDF of 2012 or ING of 2014, it is no longer disputed that one distinguishes between the applicability of the Market Economy Operator Principle (MEOP) and its application. Yet, one of the most relevant consequences of making that distinction - the allocation of the burden of proof - still raises controversy. When the GC annulled the Commission’s decision in EDF due to an insufficient and flawed assessment of the applicability of the MEOP, the Commission, EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) and AG Mazák argued that the GC erred in law by reversing the burden of proof. The same argument was raised by the Commission in Buczek Automotive of 2013. In Frucona Košice II of 2017, the Commission claimed that the GC created a new requirement imposing on the Commission an ‘excessive burden of having to seek all “imaginable” evidence and information’ when it verifies compliance with the MEOP. In all those cases, the CJEU disagreed with the Commission. In 2018, however, the EU Courts handed down judgments concerning the MEOP where the Commission’s line of argument was more successful. Most importantly, EDF, Larko and Duferco seem to have provided more clarity with respect to discharging the burden of proof when establishing the applicability of the MEOP and its application and, in particular, the Commission’s obligations in this regard. Given the importance of apportioning the burden of proof and the difficulties with that issue resulting from the distinction between the applicability and application, more clarifications from the EU Courts are very much welcome. Keywords: Applicability and application of the MEOP; Burden of proof; Scope of Commission’s obligations.


The MEOP in the Larko Case · Case T-423/14 Larko Geniki · Annotation by Małgorzata Cyndecka journal article

Annotation on the Judgment of the General Court (Sixth Chamber) of 1 February 2018 in Case T-423/14 Larko Geniki Metalleftiki kai Metallourgiki AE v European Commission.

Małgorzata Cyndecka

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 18 (2019), Issue 2, Page 180 - 185

When the State grants an economic advantage to an undertaking, it may avoid triggering Article 107(1) TFEU by complying with the Market Economy Operator Principle (MEOP). Yet, if the State invokes the MEOP in the course of the administrative procedure, it must establish unequivocally and on the basis of objective and verifiable evidence that it acted as a rational, profit-oriented, prudent and well-informed private market operator would have acted in similar circumstances under normal market conditions. If the State provides such information, the Commission is required to carry out an overall assessment, taking into account all relevant evidence in the case enabling it to determine whether the beneficiary would manifestly not have obtained comparable facilities from a private operator. While granting an economic advantage to an undertaking in financial difficulties does not necessarily amount to aid, the State must prove that it properly took into account the additional risk involved in a given measure when it decided to implement it. Ignoring such signs of a firm being in difficulty as increasing losses, diminishing turnover or mounting debt is not in line with the behaviour of a prudent private shareholder and it questions the economic rationality of the State’s conduct. This may entitle the Commission to qualify a given measure as aid. Keywords: MEOP; burden of proof; prudent shareholder; firm in difficulties; State guarantees.


How to Determine the Existence of a Tax Advantage · Case T-865/16 F.C. Barcelona · Annotation by Begoña Pérez Bernabeu journal article

Annotation on the Judgment of the General Court (Fourth Chamber) of 26 February 2019 in Case T-865/16 F.C. Barcelona v European Commission

Begoña Pérez Bernabeu

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 18 (2019), Issue 3, Page 377 - 381

Without ruling on the merits of the Case, the General Court annulled the Commission’s Decision qualifying as State aid a tax regimen granted by Spain to the major Spanish professional football clubs Real Madrid, F.C. Barcelona, Athletic Club de Bilbao and Club Atlético Osasuna. Following the action for annulment from F.C. Barcelona, the General Court took the view that the Commission had not sufficiently proven that the tax regime had the effect of conferring an actual economic advantage on these four clubs. Keywords: State aid; Burden of proof; Standard of proof; tax advantage; tax rate.


The Role of Presumptions and the Burden of Proof in Recent State Aid Cases – Some Reflections journal article

Leigh Hancher

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 18 (2019), Issue 4, Page 470 - 488

Until relatively recently, only a handful of State aid cases raised the question of who should discharge the burden of proof. In the past twelve months the issue has begun to surface more regularly. This article examines the role of presumptions in understanding how the burden of proof is allocated in State aid cases before the European courts. Presumptions are a well-established tool in EU competition law. In theory it is for the party alleging that a State aid has been granted — usually the Commission — to show that the State measure confers a selective advantage on the beneficiary. Depending on what ‘hat’ the Member State is wearing when it confers a benefit, the evidentiary burden may shift back to itself to rebut a presumption as to how it has or intends to intervene. This contribution examines the role of presumptions and the allocation of the burden of proof depending on whether the State claims that it acts as a market investor, whether it exercises a public prerogative or whether it arranges the provision of services of general economic interest. Finally, the article briefly considers the burden of proof on third parties, especially in cases where the state authorities have not actively engaged in the rebuttal of a presumption by the Commission.


The Development of the Burden of Proof in MEOP Cases journal article

Which Side of the Court and Whose Ball?

Anne Louise Bengt Jespersen

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 18 (2019), Issue 4, Page 458 - 469

The Market Economy Operator Principle (MEOP) is an essential tool in State aid law when determining whether a specific State measure confers an economic advantage within the meaning of Article 107(1) TFEU. Despite the many clarifications in the jurisprudence over the years, the applicability of the MEOP to specific economic transactions and the assessment of the economic rationality of a State measure continue to be subject to debate before the Commission and the EU Courts. Since the ruling of the Court of Justice in EDF, a recurring question in this debate has been the apportioning of the burden of proof in cases where the MEOP is invoked by the Member State and/or the alleged aid beneficiary. In more recent cases, the EU Courts have further developed the principles concerning the apportioning of the burden of proof as well as the standard of proof required on the part of the Commission and the Member States, respectively. This article analyses the approach of the Commission and the EU Courts with respect to the burden of proof in MEOP Cases prior to and after EDF, in SACE, Larko and Frucona Košice. Furthermore, the article reflects on the latest developments in the EU Courts’ Case law and points to a potential ambiguity therein. Keywords: MEOP; Burden of proof; Requirement of evidence ex ante; Allocation of burden of proof.


Assessing the Standard of Proof in Fiscal State Aid journal article

Red Card to the Commission

Begoña Pérez Bernabeu

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 18 (2019), Issue 4, Page 447 - 457

The General Court annulled the Commission’s Decision qualifying as State aid a tax regime granted by Spain to certain Spanish professional football clubs (namely, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid FC, Athletic Bilbao and Club Atlético Osasuna). The General Court took the view that the Commission had not proven that the tax regime had the effect of conferring an actual economic advantage on these four clubs. This judgment is highly significant because, without ruling on most of the substantive issues of the Case, it is the first time that criteria on the burden and standard of proof incumbent on the Commission are so clearly stated, particularly in the field of State aid. Moreover, this General Court’s approach is supported by recent and later Case law under which the Commission is required to carry out a complete analysis of all the factors that are relevant to the measure at issue. Keywords: Burden of proof; Standard of proof; Tax advantage; Football; Sports.


‘State’ Aid or Not – This Is the Question journal article

Philipp Werner, Marcello Caramazza

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 18 (2019), Issue 4, Page 519 - 527

This article provides an overview of the interpretation by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) of the criterion of ‘State resources’ as an essential element for the definition of State aid provided under Article 107 (1) TFEU. In 2019, the CJEU issued four important judgments (ENEA, EEG, Tercas and Achema) towards clarifying when a measure can or cannot be considered as implemented using State resources, and the elements that the Commission can rely upon to prove the public nature of the resources. In light of earlier Case law in interpreting this criterion (in particular, the landmark Stardust Marine, PreussenElektra, and Pearle Cases), the authors analyse the new judgments and the CJEU’s efforts to strike a balance between the wide interpretation of the concept of ‘State resources’, encompassing public funds and contributions from private actors, and the Commission’s burden of proof in imputing monies to the State.


European Commission v World Duty Free Group, formerly Autogrill España SA, Banco Santander SA, Santusa Holding SL  ∙ Joined Cases C-20/15P and C-21/15 P ∙ Annotation by Adrien Giraud and Sylvain Petit journal article

Annotation on the Judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union (Grand Chamber) of 21 December 2016 in Joined Cases C-20/15P and C-21/15P Commission v. World Duty Free Group

Adrien Giraud, Sylvain Petit

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 16 (2017), Issue 2, Page 310 - 315

On 21 December 2016, in the Spanish fiscal aid cases, the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice of the European Union struck down the General Court’s attempt of November 2014 to introduce an innovative interpretation of the notion of selectivity. Whereas the General Court had required the identification of a category of undertakings when a fiscal measure is potentially accessible to all undertakings, the Court of Justice adopted a rather conservative approach and merely restated its settled case-law. This case note analyses the law as restated by the Court and addresses some of the criticisms that have recently surfaced. Keywords: Fiscal Aid; Notion of Selectivity; Category of Undertaking; Discrimination; Burden of Proof.

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