The Committee of the Regions (CoR) will soon adopt an “own-initiative opinion” on State Aid and Services of General Interest (SGEIs). The draft is supposed to be adopted this autumn 2016. Indeed, due to the current complex rules applying for State Aid, the European Commission has started a process in 2014 to simplify these rules and to ease their implementation.
CoR’s position: simplification and easier access for local and regional authorities.
According to the CoR’s draft opinion, EU state aid rules for SGEIs should not be limited in their application to competition principles, but must fully reflect social and political needs, especially in local authorities, as well as the principles of local and regional self-government, economic, social and territorial cohesion, and neutrality as regards ownership in the Member States.
In addition, CoR claims for a simpler adaptation at local and regional level.
In order to implement these principles, the CoR is suggesting several solutions that could totally change the implementation of the State Aid rules.
Four important issues should be underlined in the proposed solutions:
- The thresholds of the de minimis rules could be raised; e.g. to EUR 1 million per case per three tax years.
- The state aid for SGEIs threshold could be raised from 15 million to 30 million EUR
- The definition of reasonable profit for a SGEI could be reviewed
- No new automatic market liberalisation mechanisms or obligations for new SGEI forms, either in EU law or under trade agreements.
Due to remoteness, difficult topography, high cost of maintenance, changing needs of the local population, etc. the delivery and/or accessibility of services of general interest, including economic ones, is sometimes difficult – in particular in mountain rural areas. The maintenance of a spatially and socially equal accessibility to services of general interest is a core issue to the functionality of mountain areas and any regional development strategy both on a national and transnational level. Thus, Euromontana welcomes the wish to simplify the current complex system and invites the Committee of the Regions to have a look at its position and its recommendations to integrate the mountain specificities into their proposal.12 July 2016