The European Commission has adopted today revised State aid rules for the agricultural, forestry and fishery and aquaculture sectors. The revised rules align State aid with the EU strategic priorities, in particular the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), as well as to the European Green Deal.
The Commission has also decided to prolong for one year the validity of its so-called Fishery ‘de minimis’ Regulation.
The new State aid rules part of the package adopted today are:
- The revised Agricultural Block Exemption Regulation (‘ABER’) and Fishery Block Exemption Regulation (‘FIBER’), which declare specific categories of aid compatible with EU State aid rules and exempt them from the requirement of prior notification to and approval by the Commission, provided that they fulfil certain conditions. This enables Member States to quickly provide aid, where conditions limiting the distortion of competition in the Single Market are met. The rules laid down in the ABER and the FIBER are complementary to those set out in the Guidelines applicable to the agricultural, forestry and fishery sectors, which set the conditions under which the Commission assesses whether State aid measures that are not block-exempted are compatible with the Single Market.
- The new Guidelines for State aid to the agricultural and forestry sectors and in rural areas (‘Agricultural Guidelines’), and the new Guidelines for State aid in the fishery and aquaculture sector (‘Fisheries Guidelines’), which reflect recent Commission’s case experience as well as the current EU strategic priorities, in particular the Common Agricultural Policy (‘CAP’), the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (‘EMFAF’) and the European Green Deal, as well as the Farm to Fork Strategy and the Biodiversity Strategy.
The revised ABER and FIBER, as well as the Agricultural Guidelines, will apply as of 1 January 2023. The Fisheries Guidelines, which have been endorsed today by the Commission, will apply once all the language versions will be available. In the meantime, the 2015 Fisheries Guidelines as amended in 2018 continue to apply.
The Commission has also decided to prolong the Fishery de minimis Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 717/2014), currently in place until 31 December 2022, until 31 December 2023. Following claims from stakeholders and several Member States during the consultation processes, this prolongation will allow the Commission to finalise its review process, including its ongoing reflection as to whether the processing and marketing of fishery and aquaculture products should no longer be included in the Fishery de minimis Regulation and should rather fall under the general de minimis Regulation. This Regulation provides for higher ceilings than the Fishery one. The processing and marketing of agricultural products already now fall under the general de minimis Regulation. De minimis Regulations exempt small aid amounts from the scope of State aid control since they are deemed to have no impact on competition and trade in the Single Market. As a consequence, de minimis support can be granted without prior notification and approval by the Commission. A final amendment of the Fishery de minimis Regulation will be adopted in the course of the next year.
The revised rules
The main changes to the ABER and the FIBER include a significant extension of scope of block-exempted measures. In particular:
- New categories of block-exempted measures, such as aid to prevent or compensate damage caused by protected animals, aid in favour of environmental management commitments and aid for cooperation in the agricultural and forestry sectors or aid to prevent or repair damage caused by adverse climatic events in the fishery and aquaculture sector;
- Tailor-made block-exempted measures for Community-led Local Development projects aimed at promoting the development of rural areas on a local scale;
- A new ceiling for European Innovation Partnership Operational Group projects aimed at innovations in the farming sector and in rural areas. Projects below €500,000 or up to €2 million per company are now block-exempted.
Based on the experience gained by the Commission, the new rules block-exempt up to 50% of cases which before were subject to notification.
The revised Agricultural Guidelines introduce the following main changes:
- A new, simplified procedure for the authorisation of State aid for measures co-financed under the CAP;
- An enlarged scope of measures targeting animal diseases and plant pests, allowing for aid to be granted for emerging animal diseases and certain invasive alien species;
- New incentives for farmers to commit to schemes under which they respect stricter environmental standards than what is required by law.
The revised Fisheries Guidelines introduce the following main changes:
- Broader scope of measures targeting animal diseases in aquaculture, allowing for aid to be granted for emerging animal diseases and certain invasive alien species.
- Introduction of new categories of aid, such as aid for fleet and cessation measures (in line with the EMFAF) and aid for investments in equipment that contributes to safety of fishing vessels in the Union’s outermost regions. At the same time, it should be noted that capacity enhancement measures are unlikely to be approved.
Background on the review process
In May 2021, the Commission published a Staff Working Document (‘SWD’) setting out the results of the evaluation of the State aid rules for the agriculture and forestry sectors and for rural areas. The evaluation showed that, while the rules were fit for purpose, some targeted adjustments were necessary to align them with the current EU priorities, in particular the future Common Agricultural Policy and the European Green Deal. Therefore, the Commission launched an impact assessment to gather further evidence on the areas for improvement, including through an open public consultation launched in January 2022 and targeted consultations of Member States authorities. The results of the impact assessment have also been published today and are available here.
As regards the fisheries and aquaculture sector, the Commission started its review in 2019 with the publication of a combined evaluation roadmap. The evaluation of the current State aid framework for that sector was run back-to-back with the Impact Assessment. The review process also included an open public consultation launched in January 2022, as well as discussions with interested parties and national competition authorities. Also here, the evaluation showed that, while the rules were by and large fit for purpose, some targeted adjustments were necessary to align them with the new rules under the Common Fisheries Policy, in particular the new EMFAF Regulation. The SWD on the evaluation and the Impact Assessment have also been published today and are available here.
The Commission invited all interested parties to comment on the proposed revised State aid rules for the agricultural, forestry and fishery and aquaculture sectors, and discussed them with the Member States at meetings in March and September 2022.
For More Information
The dedicated webpages of DG Competition for the agricultural and fisheries sectors contain all stakeholder contributions submitted in the context of the evaluation and the impact assessment, as well as summaries of the different consultation activities and the Staff Working Document on the evaluation.
Following an extensive consultation process with interested parties we can today adopt a package on our rules on State aid for the agricultural, forestry and fishery and aquaculture sectors fit for the green transition. It will make it easier and faster for Member States to provide funding to these sectors that are key to our EU economy, without undue distortions of competition in the Single Market
Source – EU Commission