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Nürburgring: Limited Scope to Challenge the Competitive Purchase of Assets That Have Received Aid · Cases T-353/15 NeXovation/European Commission and T-373/15 Ja zum Nürburgring/European Commission · Annotation by Irene Moreno-Tapia Rivas and Victoria Riv journal article

Annotation on the Judgments of the General Court (First Chamber, Extended Composition) of 19 June 2019 in Cases T-353/15 NeXovation/ European Commission and T-373/15 Ja zum Nürburgring/European Commission

Irene Moreno-Tapia, Victoria Rivas Santiago

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 19 (2020), Issue 2, Page 220 - 224

Almost a century after the construction of the German racing circuit Nürburgring, economic problems obliged the Land of Rhineland-Palatinate to finance a luxury complex around the race track with the purpose to save the park in economics terms. However, after having received a complaint, the European Commission started an investigation procedure which ended with a Decision on the State aid implemented by Germany for Nürburgring. In the meantime, the Nürburgring assets were sold through a tender process managed by the German Government under the rules agreed with the European Commission and the administrators of the assets. The Commission Decision determined that the measures in favour of the owners of Nürburgring were unlawful and incompatible with the European market rules; in addition, the European Commission decided, first, that any potential recovery of the aid would not concern the buyer of the assets; and, second, that the sale of the assets in the framework of an open, transparent and non-discriminatory tender process did not constitute State aid. The General Court upheld the Decision. Both judgments, T-353/15 and T-373/15 are currently appealed by both complainants before the Court of Justice.




Recovery of Unlawful Aid in Case of Insolvency journal article

Stefania Bello, Germano Guglielmi

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 19 (2020), Issue 4, Page 440 - 451

The provisions on State aid laid down by the TFEU aim at preventing that public intervention in the economy could affect trade and distort competition to an extent contrary to the common interest. To this end, the Commission may order Member States to recover State aid granted in breach of EU law. This article focuses in particular on the specific case of aid recovery from insolvent beneficiaries. The Commission has always taken a very rigorous approach on this matter, requiring the winding-up of the beneficiary and the exit from the market where it is not able to reimburse the total amount of the recovery, regardless of the circumstances of the case. The Recovery Notice adopted in 2019 confirmed the rigid position taken by the Commission towards insolvent beneficiaries. The main purposes of this article are, firstly, to assess the approach adopted by the Commission and, secondly, to investigate the existence of the possibility for the Member State to behave as a private creditor in recovering the unlawful aid, or to suspend the recovery procedure in order to examine a plan to relaunch the activities of the insolvent beneficiary. Keywords: Recovery Notice; unlawful aid; State aid recovery; insolvent beneficiaries


Economic Continuity in a State Aid Recovery Case · Case T-121/15 Fortischem · Annotation by Sami Hartikainen journal article

Annotation on the Judgment of the General Court (Sixth Chamber) of 24 September 2019 in Case T-121/15 Fortischem v Commission

Sami Hartikainen

European State Aid Law Quarterly, Volume 19 (2020), Issue 3, Page 359 - 364

Economic continuity is not a new topic in State aid recovery cases. However, a final satisfactory solution has yet to be established. The significance of the purchase price in asset deals especially remains unclear. The General Court’s judgment would seem to suggest that the question of as to whether an asset deal is made as ‘a going concern’ might be a more decisive factor than the price. While the case remains under appeal before the Court of Justice, taking a closer look at the details of the case is already warranted.


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.



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.