Procedures and coordination
The European Commission is responsible for controlling State aid granted by EU Member States. As a rule, the Commission must be notified in advance of all aid schemes or individual aid that constitute State aid within the meaning of Article 107 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).
The Commission examines whether the aid is compatible with the internal market, and authorities are only allowed to grant the aid after approval by the Commission. Aid that has been paid out without Commission authorisation is unlawful, and it may have to be recovered with interest from the undertakings that received the aid.
Based on the detailed rules it has issued, the Commission examines whether an aid scheme meets the general compatibility criteria set for all State aid and the specific criteria applied to the form of aid in question.
General compatibility criteria include the following:
- contribution to an objective of common interest
- need for State intervention
- incentive effect of the aid
- proportionality of the aid
- avoidance of undue negative effects on competition and trade
- transparency of the aid
The rules on State aid procedures are laid down in the Procedural Regulation (Council Regulation (EU) No 2015/1589). The Commission has also adopted an Implementing Regulation (Commission Regulation (EC) No 794/2004), which includes the forms to be used for State aid notifications.
In Finland, State aid notifications are submitted to the Commission via the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment (MEAE), except in matters falling within the administrative branch of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. The MEAE also acts as the contact link between national authorities and the European Commission.
The MEAE assists in the interpretation of State aid rules, but each authority is responsible for assessing whether a measure constitutes State aid and for following the appropriate procedures.
Significant exemptions from the notification obligation
There are a few major exceptions to the prior notification procedure concerning State aid. A notification to the Commission and prior Commission authorisation are not mandatory, if the aid is covered by the General Block Exemption Regulation (651/2014, GBER) or constitutes de minimis aid under Regulation (EU) No 1407/2013.
Summary information about each aid measure under the GBER must be submitted to the Commission via the MEAE within 20 working days after grating the aid. The Commission monitors compliance with the GBER by ex post control.
Advisory Committee on Business Subsidy
Under the Act on the General Requirements for Granting Support for Economic Activity (429/2016), the granting authority must, as a rule, request a statement from the Advisory Committee on Business Subsidy. A statement must be requested on whether the planned aid scheme or individual aid meets the characteristics of State aid set out in EU legislation, and on the procedure under State aid rules that the granting authority must comply with. A statement may also be requested on whether the aid meets the so-called good aid requirements specified in the act.
The Advisory Committee on Business Subsidy operates under the auspices of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment.
Further information: olli.hyvarinen(at)tem.fi, elisa.fagerstrom(at)tem.fi, samuli.miettinen(at)tem.fi