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State Measures That Mitigate an Undertaking’s Environmental Obligations · Case T-257/18 Iberpotash · Annotation by Daniel Vasbeck journal article

Annotation on the Judgment of the General Court (Second Chamber) of 16 January 2020 in Case T-257/18 Iberpotash v Commission

Daniel Vasbeck

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 19 (2020), Issue 3, Page 378 - 383

This case concerns the interplay between environmental obligations and State aid rules. The General Court upheld the Commission’s finding that Spain had granted State aid to the applicant, a mining operator, through two measures that alleviated its restoration obligations. The first measure related to guarantees covering environmental obligations. Their level was set by the State but the guarantees themselves were issued by a private bank. The General Court, based on an extensive interpretation of the State resources criterion, considered that a State measure reducing such guarantees below the requisite level could create a sufficiently concrete risk of a burden on the State budget. The General Court’s interpretation is significant because it extends to all scenarios where (i) undertakings have to provide a guarantee to cover environmental risks and (ii) the State has a subsidiary obligation to intervene. The second measure related to environmental protection measures adopted by the State in lieu of an undertaking and which went beyond the mandatory level. The judgment highlights the risk that Member States seeking to achieve a higher level of environmental protection may grant an advantage to an undertaking by reducing its future environmental exposure.


An Illustration of a Textbook Case or Rather of the Principle That the Devil Is in the Detail? · Cases T-607/17 Volotea, T-716/17 Germanwings and T-8/18 easyJet · Annotation by Marianne Clayton, Maria Segura and Lara Manuel journal article

Annotation on the Judgments of the General Court of the European Union (First Chamber) of 13 May 2020 in Cases T-607/17 Volotea v Commission, T-716/17 Germanwings v Commission and T-8/18 easyJet v Commission

Marianne Clayton, Maria Segura, Lara Manuel

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 19 (2020), Issue 3, Page 372 - 377

On 13 May 2020, the General Court of the EU rendered three judgments on the actions brought by Volotea, easyJet and Germanwings seeking the annulment of Commission Decision SA.33983. In this Decision, the Commission had inter alia concluded that the aid scheme ‘Compensation to Sardinian airports for public service obligations’ entailed the grant of incompatible aid to several airlines that had concluded commercial agreements with airport operators for the development of the island as a tourist destination. The General Court analysed in these judgments each of the criteria of the notion of State aid on its own merits and provided particularly worth-noting reasoning on concepts such as imputability, indirect advantage, the application of the MEOP or the definition of aid scheme.


Illegal Aid Grafted to Public Service Contracts · Case T-292/17 Région Île-de-France · Annotation by Jakub Kociubiński journal article

Annotation on the Judgment of the General Court (First Chamber) of 12 July 2019 in Case T-292/17 Région Île-de-France v European Commission (Bus Services)

Jakub Kociubiński

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 19 (2020), Issue 2, Page 199 - 204

The subsidy scheme for certain transport undertakings in Île-de-France has been found by the European Commission to be unlawful State aid but ultimately compatible with the Internal Market. Yet, breach of the obligation to notify, declared in the Commission's decision, have resulted in its repeal by national courts and with subsequent adoption of a recovery order of previously received subsidies. Which in turn has led to (unsuccessful) action for the annulment of the Commission's decision in an attempt to eliminate the original legal basis for recovery. The following issues were raised: grounds for classifying a measure as new aid; extent of the obligation to state reasons; the fulfilment of selectivity and advantage criteria.


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.


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.


Extension of Formal Investigation Procedure and Obligation to State Reasons · Case T-388/11 Deutsche Post · Annotation by Alessandra Fratini journal article

Annotation on the Judgment of the General Court (First Chamber, Extended Composition) of 10 April 2019 in Case T-388/11 Deutsche Post v European Commission

Alessandra Fratini

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 18 (2019), Issue 3, Page 372 - 376

On 10 April 2019, the General Court handed down yet another judgment in the long-lasting Deutsche Post saga, this time addressing the challenges brought against the Commission Decision extending the formal investigation procedure with regard to the pension subsidies granted to Deutsche Post for the employees with civil servant status. While it may not be the end of the story, the judgment provides interesting insights on the binding legal effects of a Decision to extend an ongoing formal investigation, for the purposes of it constituting an act open to challenge under Article 263 TFEU. It also sheds light on the Commission’s obligation to state reasons concerning the existence of a selective economic advantage, pursuant to Article 107(1) TFEU, when the beneficiary is in a situation which cannot be compared with the one of its competitors due to the peculiar legal regime that is applicable to it. Keywords: Challengeable act; Independent effects of the Decision extending a formal investigation; Interest in bringing an action; Advantage; Duty to state reasons; Incomparable position of the beneficiary.


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.



Does a Tender Exclude an Article 107(1) Advantage? journal article

An Investigation into the Different Approaches by the Court Of Justice and the European Commission

Cees Dekker

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 17 (2018), Issue 3, Page 387 - 398

This article examines for which type of transactions the use of a competing, transparent, non-discriminatory and unconditional tender procedure excludes the provision of an advantage and for which type of transactions this is not the case. In answering that question, it will be discussed whether the found distinction can be logically explained and criteria will be developed in accordance with which transactions can be distinguished for which a tender procedure will exclude State aid and for which it will not. Finally, suggestions will be given on how the framework of assessment could be made more consistent. Keywords: Advantage; Public Procurement; SGEI.


The Case of the Spanish Tax Lease System · Case C-128/16 P Commission v Spain · Annotation by Phedon Nicolaides journal article

Annotation on the Judgment of the Court (Second Chamber) of 25 July 2018 in Case C-128/16 P European Commission v Kingdom of Spain and Others.

Phedon Nicolaides

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 17 (2018), Issue 3, Page 412 - 418

A tax measure can be selective in relation to both direct and indirect beneficiaries. A beneficiary that passes on all benefits to third parties may still derive a selective advantage. The selectivity of such advantages have to be determined on the basis of their effects, not the form of the tax. Keywords: Selectivity; Direct beneficiaries; Indirect beneficiaries; Passing on advantage.


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