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The Government as Purchaser: The MEOP Still Requires a Thorough Examination of All Relevant Circumstances · Joined Cases C‑331/20 P and C‑343/20 P Volotea SA, and easyJet Airline Co. Ltd v European Commission · Annotation by Cees Dekker and Ekram Belhadj journal article

Annotation of the Judgment of the Court of Justice (Second Chamber) of 17 November 2022 in Joined Cases C‑331/20 P and C‑343/20 P Volotea SA, and easyJet Airline Co. Ltd v European Commission

Cees Dekker, Ekram Belhadj

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 22 (2023), Issue 1, Page 95 - 100

Even where the government acts as the purchaser of services, an assessment of whether it has acted in accordance with the market economy operator principle requires an examination of all the relevant facts. The fact that the government acted through private companies, that the government pursued public policy objectives or that there was no tender procedure is not a reason to exclude the application of the market economy operator principle, the Court of Justice ruled in this case. The Court of Justice confirmed that the burden of proof as to whether the MEOP has been complied with and whether an advantage has been conferred on a company lies with the Commission.


Update on the Autostrada Wielkopolska S.A. Case · Case C-933/19 P Autostrada Wielkopolska S.A. · Annotation by Marek Rzotkiewicz journal article

Annotation on the Judgment of the Court of Justice of 11 November 2021 (Second Chamber) in Case C-933/19 P Autostrada Wielkopolska S.A. v European Commission

Marek Rzotkiewicz

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 21 (2022), Issue 3, Page 310 - 315

In cases before the EU Courts, parties who challenge the legal acts of EU institutions, eg Commission decisions, frequently raise many different pleas claiming violations concerning both EU law and the factual assessment. But it is for the EU Courts to adjudicate on those claims. When a party dissatisfied with the General-Court judgment appeals to the Court of Justice, in the appeal, the party cannot simply repeat the pleas raised in the action for the annulment before the General Court. An appeal to the Court of Justice must be limited to points of law and the appraisal of the facts by the General Court does not constitute, save where the clear sense of the evidence produced before it is distorted, a question of law which is subject, as such, to review by the Court of Justice. In State aid cases, case law frequently refers to the concept of the private operator to assess whether an action by public bodies can be compared to those of a comparable private operator, and if a State granted an advantage within the meaning of Article 107(1) TFEU. But the concept of the private operator has many variations which cannot all be reduced to the private investor or to private creditor formulas.


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.


Valencia Club de Fútbol: Every Advantage Has Its Disadvantage (and Vice Versa) · Case T-732/16 Valencia Club de Fútbol · Annotation by Doortje Ninck Blok and Gerard van der Wal journal article

Annotation on the Judgment of the EU General Court (Fourth Chamber) of 12 March 2020 in Case T-732/16 Valencia Club de Fútbol

Doortje Ninck Blok, Gerard van der Wal

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 20 (2021), Issue 2, Page 284 - 291

The General Court handed down a judgement in 2020 in which it annulled the Commission’s Decision regarding State aid granted to Valencia Club de Fútbol through a €75 million (regional) government guarantee. The Commission qualified the guarantee granted by a financial entity under the supervision of the Regional Government of Valencia, intended to cover the bank loans to Fundación Valencia to enable Fundación Valencia to acquire shares in Valencia Club de Fútbol (the beneficiary according to the Commission and General Court), as unlawful state aid in the meaning of Article 107(1) TFEU. This annotation elaborates on two pleas brought forward by Valencia Club de Fútbol: (i) manifest errors of assessment in the characterisation of an advantage and (ii) manifest errors of assessment when calculating the amount of aid. The General Court considered that the Commission made an error of assessment when applying the market economy operator principle, where the Commission did not carry out an overall assessment. Furthermore, the Commission did not sufficiently support the finding that there was no market price for a similar non-guaranteed loan. In their conclusion, the annotators address the application of the Guarantee Notice by the Commission.


Let Down by the Facts: The General Court Annuls the European Commission Decision on Irish Tax Arrangement for Apple · Joined Cases T-778/16 and T-892/16 Ireland and Others v European Commission · Annotation by Veronika Korom journal article

Annotation on the Judgment of the General Court (Seventh Chamber, Extended Composition) of 15 July 2020 in Joined Cases T-778/16 and T-892/16 Ireland and Others v European Commission

Veronika E. Korom

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 20 (2021), Issue 2, Page 277 - 283

The General Court's decision in Apple’s Irish tax case confirmed that the European Commission is competent to review national tax rulings for whether they confer a selective advantage on a tax payer. Further, the GCEU validated the legal tests on which the Commission relied in reaching its State aid decision. However, the GCEU found that the Commission had failed in its assessment of the specific facts of this case and in particular failed to show the existence of a selective advantage. It therefore annulled the Commission’s decision. Given that the GCEU ruled in favour of the Commission on virtually all points of law but censured the Commission on questions of fact, the Commission’s appeal to the CJEU is likely to face significant challenges on both admissibility and substance.


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.


‘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.


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.


‘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.