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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.


The EU Foreign Subsidies Regulation: journal article

Substantive Assessment Issues and Open Questions

Morris Schonberg

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 21 (2022), Issue 2, Page 143 - 152

The EU Institutions have now reached political agreement in relation to the Foreign Subsidies Regulation, a potentially far-reaching instrument that effectively creates a new subsidy control regime for non-EU subsidies affecting the EU's internal market. This article addresses the key substantive assessments that the European Commission will need to consider when investigating foreign subsidies under the Regulation, namely: (i) the existence of a ‘foreign subsidy’; (ii) whether the subsidy causes a ‘distortion’ in the internal market; (iii) whether the negative effects in the internal market may be balanced by any positive effects of the subsidy; and (iv) the determination of redressive measures or commitments required to address the distortions. It identifies a number of significant open issues and questions that could have a substantial effect on how the Regulation operates and ultimately, its impact in practice on competitive conditions within the internal market. Keywords: foreign subsidies; WTO; distortion; balancing; redressive measures


Shedding Light into the ‘Black Box’ of State Aid: journal article

The Impact of Hinkley Point C on the Assessment of the Compatibility of State Aid

Phedon Nicolaides

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 20 (2021), Issue 1, Page 4 - 14

The article argues that the judgment of the Court of Justice in case C-594/18 P Austria v Commission, which appeared to limit the criteria that the Commission uses to determine the compatibility of State aid, may have a positive impact on State aid control if it makes the assessment of the Commission more transparent. There is a need for greater transparency in the ‘weighing’ of the positive and negative effects of State aid and the ‘balancing’ of those effects. The weighing and balancing of the effects of State aid are not easy tasks. But it will be necessary for the Commission to be more explicit about the model it relies on to conclude that aid is compatible or not. Keywords: Article 107(3)(c) TFEU; compatibility with internal market; common interest; affectation of trade; distortion of competition; Hinkley Point C


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




Support for Services in the Lithuanian Electricity Sector · Case C-706/17 Achema · Annotation by Lina Barauskaitė journal article

Annotation on the preliminary ruling of the Court of Justice (Fourth Chamber) of 15 May 2019 in Case C-706/17 AB Achema, AB Orlen Lietuva and AB Lifosa v Valstybinė kainų ir energetikos kontrolės komisija, Lietuvos Respublikos energetikos ministerija, UAB Baltpool

Lina Barauskaitė

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 18 (2019), Issue 3, Page 352 - 358

On 15 May 2019, the Court of Justice of the European Union (the CJEU or the Court) rendered a landmark state aid preliminary ruling where it assessed the Lithuanian public interest services (PIS) support measure provided to certain Lithuanian electricity producers. The measure was never notified to the European Commission and was subject to number of court disputes at the national level. The ruling confirms that the PIS support in the electricity sector constitutes State aid. In particular, the Court confirms that PIS funds can be regarded as State resources, since their life cycle (collection, administration and distribution) are strictly regulated and remains under the control of the Lithuanian State. PIS funds are also intended to finance certain services in the electricity sector, constituting a selective advantage. Moreover, due to characteristics of the Lithuanian electricity market, such as existing interconnectors and European Union electricity market liberalisation, PIS scheme is also liable to affect trade between the Member States and distort competition. Finally, the Court also expressed its doubts whether PIS should be defined as service of general economic interest (SGEI). According to the Court, the requirements for SGEI existence are not met. Keywords: Energy; Electricity; State resources; Imputability; Effect on trade; Distortion of competition; SGEI.


Tax Rulings and State Aid Qualification: Should Reality Matter? journal article

Adrien Giraud, Sylvain Petit

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 16 (2017), Issue 2, Page 233 - 242

In its decisional practice developing tax ruling, the European Commission uses a theoretical reasoning that can in some instances appear somewhat disconnected from the facts of the cases. Indeed, all these cases boil down to one single determination (whether the concerned transfer prices were – or not – set at market levels) and the satisfaction of all the conditions for the existence of State aid derive directly from this (rather theoretical) question alone. Little to no account taken of important factual elements (such as for example the context of international fiscal competition) and several conclusions appear to be presumed rather than demonstrated (for example the distortion of competition). One therefore remains with the general impression that State aid law remains into a sort of exception to the rest of competition law: an area of law where reality does not (really) matter. Keywords: Tax Ruling; Selectivity; Advantage; Distortion of Competition; Counterfactual.


What is Normal? journal article

Phedon Nicolaides

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 16 (2017), Issue 2, Page 146 - 153

A question that is often asked is whether companies derive an advantage in the meaning of Article 107(1) TFEU if they receive compensation for the extra costs they incur when they have to provide services as a result of obligations imposed on them by the State. The answer given in the case law is that no advantage is obtained when such compensation satisfies the so-called “Altmark” conditions. Recently, however, the General Court and the Court of Justice have provided contradictory answers in relation to compensation for the extra costs of pension obligations towards former civil servants. While the Court of Justice followed the consistent approach of the case law, the General Court considered that the extra costs incurred by Deutsche Post, the undertaking in question, were not normal because such costs were not borne by other postal operators. This article argues that the reasoning of the General Court is defective or at least incomplete because it failed to take into account the total employment costs of Deutsche Post from employing former civil servants and whether it could have enjoyed other advantages from their employment. Keywords: Advantage; Normal Costs; Distortion of Competition; Compensation.

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