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Taxation, State Aid Rules and Arbitral Courts: journal article

A BIT of a Mess in the Micula Saga

Begoña Pérez Bernabeu

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 19 (2020), Issue 3, Page 329 - 338

In its long-awaited ruling on 18 June 2019, the General Court (GC) annulled the Commission's State aid Decision in the Micula case where the Commission considered that the damages payment by Romania of an ICSID award constituted State aid. In the GC's opinion, the payment of the adverse arbitration award by a Romania does not constitute illegal State aid. Unfortunately, the GC's reasoning is tied to the timing of the measure taken by Romania, which took place before Romania acceded to the EU, and the rest of the compelling substantive pleas were not assessed. Moreover, the GC did not rule on whether the compensation of the withdrawal of the tax incentives for the post-accession period constitutes State aid given that the Commission failed to distinguish between compensation for the period predating accession and post-accession. For this reason, this judgment does not put an end to the Micula saga as long as the Commission has lodged an appeal before the Court of Justice. Keywords: arbitral award, Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), repeal of tax incentives, damages compensation, enforcement


The Never Ending ‘Saga’ of the Fallimento Traghetti del Mediterraneo · Case C-387/17 Traghetti del Mediterraneo · Annotation by Alessandra Franchi journal article

Annotation of the judgment of the Court of Justice (First Chamber) of 23 January 2019 in Case C-387/17 Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri v Fallimento Traghetti del Mediterraneo

Alessandra Franchi

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 18 (2019), Issue 3, Page 391 - 397

This judgment continues the ‘saga’ related to the litigation between Fallimento Traghetti del Mediterraneo and the Italian State concerning the unlawful State aid granted to Tirrenia di Navigazione SpA as compensation for public service obligations from 1976 to 1980 and shows the complexity of the assessments by national courts on damages related to the granting of unlawful State aid. The CJ provides guidance on the notion of existing aid, clarifying that State aid measures which were granted in a period when the maritime cabotage market was not yet liberalized at Union level cannot be classified as existing aid because of the merely formal absence of liberalisation of that market, to the extent that those subsidies were liable to affect trade between Member States and distorted or threatened to distort competition. The CJ also emphasises the cooperation obligation of the national courts and their role in awarding damages related to the distortion of competition created by unlawful State aid. Member State cannot invoke the principle of legitimate expectation in case of breach of the notification obligation set in Article 108 (3) TFEU. Finally, the CJ clarifies that the ten-year limitation period set out in Article 15, paragraph 1, of Regulation 659/1999 (repealed by Regulation 2015/1589), only applies to Commission investigation under Article 108, paragraph 3, TFEU and only refers to the Commission’s power and time limit for recovery of illegal aid, but does not apply in damages proceedings before the national jurisdictions. Keywords: Existing aid; Recovery; National enforcement; Prescription; Damages.



The National Transparency Registers in Action journal article

Katrine Lillerud

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 18 (2019), Issue 3, Page 239 - 248

National registers on individual aid grants above €500 000 became mandatory from 1 July 2016. The European Commission hopes the registers will promote compliance, raise awareness on aid granted and function as a disciplinary measure. They count on the registers to ensure better control at the national level, by incentivising beneficiaries to comply and by providing enough information for competitors to check whether aid was lawfully granted. This article provides a case study of how the national registers function in Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. The three European Economic Area States are an interesting case study as they are the only countries that have opted for their own national transparency registers, whilst the EU Member States all use the Commission’s portal. The findings show that the transparency registers currently do not provide the information required for competitors to assess the compatibility of an aid measure with the internal market. Almost all the published aid measures lack a link to the national legal basis or the granting authorities’ decision on the individual aid measure. These shortcomings are easily corrected. However, if left unattended, they arguably render block exempted aid unlawful. Currently, the effect of the national registers appears to be that they induce competitors to apply for aid rather than litigate on it. Keywords: Ex post evaluation; Block exemptions; National transparency registers; Individual aid; Privatization of State aid enforcement; Transparency communication


Private Enforcement of EU State Aid Law Through Damages Claims journal article

Achieving Effective Redress

Alvaro Ummen Almeida

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 18 (2019), Issue 2, Page 169 - 179

A new enabling framework for damages claims based on competition law infringements has arisen in light of the European Damages Directive coming into force and its implementation across EU Member States. Hitherto, one of the reasons why damages awards derived from State aid infringements have been rare is the absence of EU cause of action in claims against the aid beneficiary and on the standards of proof in causality analysis. These obstacles can be surpassed by amplifying the scope of the Damages Directive and through a broader interpretation of the goals of Articles 107 and 108 TFEU with further instruments such as compensation. Aligned with the expectation of initiatives at the EU level, five steps are suggested: amplifying the scope of the Damages Directive to State aid infringements; joint and several liability between Member States and aid recipients; presumption of harm to reduce causal uncertainty; counterfactuals for quantifying damages; and a right of recourse from contractual liability by the aid recipient. A more economic approach in line with the overarching principle of effectiveness will enable an active role by competitors, promoting equivalence between antitrust and State aid harm redress, while also functioning as a complementary deterrence mechanism of enforcement by strengthening the recovery procedure. Keywords: Damages; Enforcement; Framework Equivalence; Effective Redress.


A New Boost to National Recovery? · Case C‑349/17 Eesti Pagar · Annotation by Svein Terje Tveit journal article

Annotation on the Judgment of the Court (Grand Chamber) of 5 March 2019 in Case C‑349/17 Eesti Pagar AS v Ettevõtluse Arendamise Sihtasutus, Majandus- ja Kommunikatsiooniministeerium.

Svein Terje Tveit

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 18 (2019), Issue 2, Page 186 - 191

On 5 March 2019, the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJ) issued an important ruling clarifying the scope of the national authorities’ obligation to recover unlawful State aid and the test for ‘incentive effect’ — a requirement for an aid measure to benefit from the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER). The CJ confirms that national authorities must recover unlawful State aid also in cases where the aid is granted (wrongfully) under the GBER as regional investment aid and the Commission has not adopted any Decision. The aid beneficiary may not rely on the principle of protection of legitimate expectations even if the granting authority had recommended the aid beneficiary to apply for aid knowing that work on the project had begun before the aid application was submitted. In cases where the EU rules on limitation period and interests are not directly applicable, national rules apply, so that the national authorities must seek full recovery of the unlawful aid and thereby ensure the effectiveness of State aid rules. Keywords: GBER; Recovery; National enforcement; Unlawful aid; National legal basis.


Monitoring of State Aid journal article

From Ex Ante to Ex Post Control

María Muñoz de Juan

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 17 (2018), Issue 4, Page 483 - 493

Ex post monitoring is a counterpart of the State aid decentralisation process and, as such, is a cornerstone of the current State aid control system. The application of State aid rules is being increasingly decentralised thanks to the significant use of the block exemption Regulations by the Member States. However, this does not mean that the Commission is giving up its powers and obligations under the Treaty. On the contrary, it closely follows — through ex post controls — how State aid measures are implemented by the Member States. This Commission-level monitoring exercise aims to correct the detected irregularities both for the past and for the future and helps to improve State aid rules. It has a measurable deterrent effect. Keywords: State aid; enforcement; monitoring; ex post control; SAM; decentralisation; block exemption regulation.


ARTICLES - STATE AID AND NATIONAL JURISDICTIONS ∙ How to Ensure State Aid Compliance at Local and Regional Level? journal article

Christian Berger

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 16 (2017), Issue 3, Page 476 - 481

It is the Member State which is responsible for all State aid granted by authorities on its territory. At the same time, it might not even be aware of aid which may have been granted by a regional or local authority. Local and regional authorities are like the Member State itself active in many fields, both economic and non-economic and sometimes pursue an interventionist aid granting policy on its local territory. It is therefore paramount that the State establishes structures which make sure those local and regional authorities do not grant illegal aid. Member States have adopted different approaches towards this. Most rely on soft measures such as awareness-raising and training, while other have coupled this with more organised enforcement structures or hard legislation. Both central and more federative or devolved Member States face the same problem; the latter has just moved the enforcement responsibility to a different level of government. But in the end, the Member State’s fundamental responsibility remains. Keywords: State Aid Compliance; Local and Regional Level; Enforcement.




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