In a speech today at King's College London, Vice-President Almunia provided some insight into the Commission's effort to modernise EU State aid rules.
He started by describing the overarching goals of the reform, explaining that "in times of shrinking budgets, EU countries have to to more with less". The main goal of the reform is thus to "help national governments make more efficient use of scarce resources." To achieve this, the reform will:
- Promote "well designed and targeted aid that limits competition distortions in the internal market, fixes market failures, and pursues common European objectives." According to Almunia, examples of good aid include aid that promotes innovation, green technologies, and the development of human capital.
- Promote aid that incentivises undertakings to adopt a conduct it would not have adopted absent the aid.
- Discourage aid that keeps unviable companies on indefinite life support.
- Tackle the "challenge to the level playing field" caused by the fiscal disparities between the different EU Member States.
- Increase transparency by better informing the public about the companies that are receiving aid, the amout of aid they are receiving and the reasons why they are receiving aid.
- Streamline the different State aid law instruments and make them more consistent.
As part of this modernisation of the State aid rules, the Commission adopted the new guidelines for the broadband sector in December. The Commission adopted also in December the review of the Enabling and Procedural Regulations, which the Council will start reviewing later this month. The revised regulations would allow the Commission to probe the industry, as it does in antitrust, and to conduct inquiries on aid granted in the same sectors by several Member States.
As to the future, Almunia explained that the Commission aims at revising the following guidelines over the next 12 to 18 months:
- Guidelines on Regional aid (May 2013)
- Guidelines on Industrial Rescue and Restructuring (Summer 2013)
- Aviation guidelines (Summer 2013)
- Framework for research and development and innovation (end of 2013)
- Guidelines on risk finance (end of 2013)
- Guidelines on environmental aid (begining of 2014)
Almunia stated that the Commission was also working on a revision of the General Block Exemption Regulation and was considering whether a review of the De Minimis regulation is warranted.
The full text of Almunia's speech is available here.