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The Three Poisons of Post-Covid State Aid Control: journal article open-access

Emerging Trends in Interpretation and Legislative Approach to Member States’ Aid Measures

Jakub Kociubiński

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 22 (2023), Issue 1, Page 4 - 16

Even though the economic situation remains precarious, the Covid-19 economic shock has subsided enough to allow us to take stock of the European Union (EU) responses to the pandemic and appraise them in the context of emerging trends. The author argues that there are early precursors of such trends – referred to as the ‘Three Poisons’ – observable in interpretive and legislative approaches to Member States’ aid measures. These are: the easier justification of extended lifelines without adequately recognising the need for adaptation to new market conditions, and moral hazard associated with subsidy dependence; the blurring of lines between what is theoretically rational and what is obtainable under crisis market conditions thereby distorting the results of the Market Economy Operator Test; the increasing reliance on ad hoc frameworks, and highly situation-specific interpretations potentially eroding the pre-existing acquis. In this context, the purpose of this article is to identify post-Covid trends which negatively affect or might affect the long-term effectiveness of the EU State aid control system. Based on this, to assess whether these ‘poisons’ can and should be opposed. This analysis will conclude with de lege lata and de lege ferenda recommendations. Keywords: COVID-19; market economy operator test; MEOP; moral hazard; ad hoc regulation; common assessment criteria

Covid-19 and the State Aid Regimes Established by the Western Balkan Countries journal article

Anduena Gjevori

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 22 (2023), Issue 2, Page 161 - 174

Since the adoption of the first State aid law by North Macedonia, the Western Balkan (WB) countries have shown – to a certain degree – the willpower to approximate the laws adopted in the field of State aid with the EU State aid acquis. However, the first State aid commissions closely linked to the Ministry of Finance or the Ministry of Economy had an essential weakness in their institutional structure. This article aims to establish a connection between the chosen types of State aid regulators in the WB and their operability during the transposition and enforcement of the Temporary Framework for Covid-19 outbreak. In this framework, the article examines the transposition of the Temporary Framework of March 2020 into the national legislations of the WB countries. Moreover, it analyses selected decisions granting Covid-19 State aid, comparing them with the Temporary Framework. Only two out of six countries of the WB, under analysis, (partially) transposed the Temporary Framework. The Covid-19 State aid has been mostly retroactively approved and has, in some cases, been implemented without being assessed by the relevant State aid authorities. Even in the few cases that have been notified, Covid-19 State aid has been granted in contradiction with the Temporary Framework. Additionally, the few decisions imposing conditions for Covid-19 State aid have not been implemented by the appropriate public authorities. Keywords: EU candidate countries; State aid monitoring authorities; Temporary Framework; Covid-19

‘Naked Economic Nationalism’ · Case T-111/21 Croatia Airlines - COVID-19 · Annotation by Marijana Liszt journal article

Annotation of the Judgment of the General Court of 9 November 2022 in Case T-111/21 Croatia Airlines - COVID-19

Marijana Liszt

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 22 (2023), Issue 2, Page 199 - 204

This case note concerns one of many European Commission decisions approving State aid as damage compensation to airlines due to extraordinary occurrences (COVID-19 outbreak), on the basis of Article 107(2)(b) TFEU, considered to be an ‘automatic exemption’, meaning that the discretionary powers of the Commission are confined to verifying the fulfilment of the required conditions. This Commission decision has been challenged by the tireless Ryanair DAC, which has been challenging many State aid measures granted to airlines by the Member states simultaneously, on the basis of Article 107(2)(b) TFEU as well as other applicable grounds (Article 107(3)(b); the COVID-19 Temporary Framework). This judgment has been chosen as it refers to Croatia Airlines, the Croatian national air carrier, presenting the first ever General Court decision referring to State aid granted to a Croatian undertaking by the Republic of Croatia. The case raises several peculiar legal questions concerning the notions of discrimination and the difference in treatment. It is also worth mentioning the Court’s argument regarding Croatia Airlines’ essential role in Croatia’s air transport connectivity.

Proportionality of the Sectoral Application of the Covid-19 Temporary Framework journal article open-access

Sofie Holtan Lakså

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 22 (2023), Issue 4, Page 356 - 370

This article is adapted from the author’s College of Europe Master’s Thesis which was awarded the Lexxion Publisher prize for the Best Thesis on EU State aid. One of the measures put in place to mitigate the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the European economy was the Covid-19 Temporary Framework. Adopted on 19 March 2020, it granted Member States flexibility under the State aid regime to support their national economies from their own pockets. While the relaxed rules were deemed necessary, the Framework was introduced with a known caveat: it is well-established that the granting of State aid distorts competition on the internal market. It is for the same reason that certain criteria have to be met for the Commission to approve the granting of aid, amongst them the principle of proportionality. This article argues that a large share of the aid approved under the Temporary Framework was in fact not proportionate to the shock caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and should therefore not have been approved by the European Commission. The results demonstrate that the aids granted under the Temporary Framework cannot be considered proportionate in nature: of the 19 sectors analysed, the aid was found not to be disproportionate to the shock caused by the pandemic in only one sector. Keywords: Temporary Framework; proportionality; subsidy race; COVID-19

The Legitimacy of EU Soft Law: journal article

Still Nothing New or a Turn for The Worse in the Field of State Aid?

Verena Rošic Feguš

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 21 (2022), Issue 1, Page 54 - 64

This article takes issue with the State aid soft law and its questionable legitimacy, transparency and compatibility with the rule of law. Although critics in this regard are almost ‘traditional’, the practice of adoption of EU soft law does not imply a conclusion that something is changing in this regard. What is more, the dimensions of the current pandemic seem to emphasize them. Recognising advantages of soft law and the existence of wide discretion of the European Commission this paper looks at the current state of affairs regarding EU soft law in EU State aid regime (and briefly also other EU policies), determines the gap between EU soft law and the rule of law and presupposes solutions that would improve EU soft law’s quality in the European integration. Keywords: legitimacy; EU soft law; soft law; rule of law; democratic safeguards; COVID-19 soft law