The AER working group on mobility & transports has long been involved in the defense of regional airports as they constitute often one of the only sustained connection with other territories for remote regions. They have therefore a crucial economic development role which justifies the support they get from governments. While regions are nowadays also working on developping alternate and less polluting forms of transports (as exemplified during the joint plenary meetings in Izmir last November), regional airports are still vital for the regional development of many of them, as was underlined in the AER position on regional airports in 2013.
Roger Estefors, the AER expert on regional airports acting on behalf of the AER working group on Mobility and Transports, therefore answered the European Commissions invitation for comments to the consultation on exempting certain investment to ports and airports by extension of the General Block Exemption Regulation (state aid)
As Roger Estefors explains:
In accordance with the EU State aid rules, Member States in principle have to notify State aid measures to the Commission before implementation. The measures can only be implemented once the Commission has approved them. The Commission can exempt measures from this obligation, provided that certain conditions are fulfilled, which ensure that the measures are compatible with the internal market. With respect to those conditions and rules the European Commission adopted during 2014 a new General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER), as an integral building block of State Aid Modernisation (“SAM”).
This initiative aims to simplify the application of State aid rules, thus reducing administrative burden and costs and speeding up the implementation of projects, by including aid measures for different sectors as Culture and Heritage conservation and Local Infrastructure into the GBER, Member States will no longer have to notify the measures to the Commission and wait for the approval of the Commission before they can start implementation as long as the amount of aid and other conditions are within the frameworks and thresholds stipulated by the Commission. This means that there will not be significant impacts on the amount of State aid allowed under the EU State aid rules.
Examples of sectors already included into the GBER concerning State Aid are:
Access to finance for SMEs
Aid to innovation clusters
Aid to process and organisational innovation
Research, development and innovation
Disadvantaged workers and for workers with disabilities
Culture and heritage conservation
Investment aid for Local infrastructure
Aid for sport and multifunctional recreational infrastructures
During March 2016 the Commission announced an invitation for comments on draft provisions exempting certain investment aid for ports and airports from prior Commission scrutiny under EU state aid rules. By including aid measures for ports and airports into the GBER, The consultation was announced during March 7 until May 30 2016. The target group, welcome to contribute to the consultation, consisted of all citizens, organisations and public authorities. The consultation relates to the amending Regulation (EU) No 651/2014 declaring certain categories of aid compatible with the internal market in application of Articles 107 and 108 of the Treaty
AER did not take part in the first consultation due to misunderstandings in the procedure of appointing someone responsible for summarizing an AER position.
In front of the second consultation it was noticed that the answers concerning airports from the 1:th consultation indicated a clear trend towards an increase of the upper limit in the direction of 500.000 yearly passengers for being exempted from the notification requirement. Even the opinion of including operational aid seems to have the same tendency. Originly the Commission open the first consultation by limiting the aid solely to investments in combination to a maximum number of 50.000 yearly passengers. For the second consultation the number of passengers had expanded to 150.000 yearly concerning aid for investment. The Commission did not make any indication to open up for a discussion, during the second consultation, concerning operating aid.
The AER position in front of the second consultation is fully in line with today’s AER position concerning Regional Airports. The work with the Regional Airport has been continuous discussed within the working grope since 2010. In this second consultation AER did solely concentrate on issues related to airports.
|2016-11-AER position General Block Exemption|