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Targeted modification of the General Block Exemption Regulation in relation to Member State resources involved in the EU funding programmes

Overall state of play:

Legal Act – Adopted: Commission Regulation (EU) 2021/1237 adopted on 23 July 2021 (OJ L 270, 29.7.2021, p. 39–75)

State of play, main conclusions, outlook

Under EU State aid rules, Member States, in general, have to notify any plans to grant new aid to the Commission before implementing them. The General Block Exemption Regulation (“GBER”) constitutes an important exemption to this rule. It lays down conditions on the basis of which certain aid measures are declared compatible with the internal market without any need for a prior notification to the Commission. These conditions are based on the Commission's market experience and decision making practice. The GBER plays a crucial role in simplifying and clarifying rules, cutting red tape and allowing for well-defined projects to go ahead as fast as possible. It also allows the Commission to focus on the potentially most distortive cases.

The Commission regulation extends the scope of the GBER, which will allow Member States to implement certain aid measures without prior Commission scrutiny. The revised rules concern: (i) aid granted by national authorities for projects funded via certain EU centrally managed programmes under the new Multiannual Financial Framework; and (ii) certain State aid measures that support the green and digital transition and are, at the same time, relevant for the recovery from the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Estimated savings and benefits

Exempting additional categories of aid from prior notification is a major simplification, which facilitates a quick implementation of such measures by Member States, where conditions limiting the distortion of competition in the Single Market are met.

The categories national funds are those relating to:

1. Financing and investment operations supported by the InvestEU Fund;

2. Research, Development and Innovation (RD&I) projects having received a “Seal of Excellence” under Horizon 2020 or Horizon Europe, as well as co-funded research and development projects or Teaming actions under Horizon 2020 or Horizon Europe;

3. European Territorial Cooperation (ETC) projects, also known as Interreg.

REFIT Platform

In its opinion V.8.a on state Aid and ESIF, the REFIT Platform recognized the concerns relating to cohesion rules and state aid rules and concurs that the combination of State aid rules and other legal or financial instruments, such as the ESI-funds, can possibly cause unnecessary administrative burdens. The REFIT Platform suggested that the European Commission takes adequate notice of the complexity and discouragement in ESIF funded projects. The Stakeholder group also acknowledged the Commission’s ambition to address the possible interconnection of State aid and other instruments as per quote in the MFF 2021-2027 proposal “to simplify and streamline State aid rules to make it easier to link up instruments from the EU budget with national funding”.