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Nicolas de Sadeleer State aids and the EU ETS

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Nicolas de Sadeleer State aids and the EU ETS. Professor of EU Law at FUSL Jean Monnet Chair Guest Professor Lund and UCL. Scop e of Article 107 TFEU. Article 107 TFEU does not provide any definition of the concept of a State aid.

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Nicolas de Sadeleer

State aids and the EU ETS

Professor of EU Law at FUSL

Jean Monnet Chair

Guest Professor Lund and UCL

scop e of article 107 tfeu
Scope of Article 107 TFEU
  • Article 107 TFEU does not provide any definition of the concept of a State aid.
  • Moreover, the measures falling under this provision are not identified with reference to their form, their objectives or the activities to which they apply.
  • In order to be classified as a State aid, a measure must satisfy four conditions

a) an advantage must be conferred on the recipient of the aid measure;

b) the advantage must be of state origin;

c) the aid must have a selective nature;

d) the aid must be liable to affect trade between the Member States.

1st condition advantage conferred on the recipient
1st condition: Advantage conferred on the recipient

Necessary to establish ‘whether the recipient undertaking receives an economic advantage which it would not have obtained under normal market conditions’

  • PPP- Article 192(2) TFEU

By financing costs which would normally fall on the recipient undertaking, the public authorities have granted it a State aid.

AG Jacobs in C126/01 Gemo: ‘a given measure will constitute State aid where it relieves those liable under the polluter-pays principle from their primary responsibility to bear the costs’

advantage granting of tradable emission rights
Advantage: Granting of tradable emission rights
  • Where the commodities are granted for free, sold or auctioned, the undertakings can trade during a specific period in intangible assets representing a market value.
  • Where national authorities are conferring on tradable allowances a market value, these measures have to be regarded as ‘an economic advantage which the recipient undertaking could not have obtained under normal market conditions’

Case C-279/08 P Commission v Netherlands [2011], para. 91

2 nd condition state resources
2nd condition: State resources

The advantage must:

  • be granted directly or indirectly through state resources and,
  • be imputable to the State.
ets and transfer of state resources
ETS and transfer of State resources
  • A national cap-and-trade scheme offering free of charge the possibility to the undertakings covered by it to trade in emission allowances in order to avoidthe payment of fines and conferring on these allowances the character of tradable intangible assets confers an advantage granted through State resources.
  • Case C-279/08 P Commission v Netherlands [2011] para. 106.
ets and transfer of state resources1
ETS and transfer of State resources
  • Grandfathering of allowances = foregoing of revenues for the MS which is not inherent to the environmental regulation
  • Article 10 quater ETS Directive
3 rd condition selectivity
3rd condition: selectivity
  • The measure favours certain undertakings or the production of certain goods’, rather than indiscriminately benefit all undertakings situated within the Member State.
  • Selective State aids stand in opposition to so-called general measures of economic policy which are not aiming at favouring specific products or sectors, but all undertakings in national territory, without distinction.
  • Article 27 ETS Directive margin of appreciation left to the MSt
3 rd condition selectivity1
3rd condition: selectivity
  • Must arrangements applicable to all industrial sectors, which are not de iure selective, but which de facto apply to a limited number of sectors, be considered as falling under Article 107(1) TFEU? 
3 rd condition selectivity2
3rd condition: selectivity
  • ‘Article [107(1) TFEU] does not distinguish between measures of State intervention by reference to their causes or their aims but defines them in relation to their effects. Even if environmental protection constitutes one of the essential objectives of the [EU], the need to take that objective into account does not justify the exclusion of selective measures from the scope of Article [107(1)TFEU], as account may, in any event, usefully be taken of the environmental objectives when the compatibility of the State aid measure with the common market is being assessed pursuant to Article [107(3) TFEU]’.
  • Case C-279/08 P Commission v Netherlands [2011], para. 75.
4 th condition negative impact on trade between member states
4th condition: negative impact on trade between Member States
  • The benefit has a negative impact on competition as well as on the free movement of goods
  • Theseconditions are inextricably linkedand are easily fulfilled.
  • The prohibition of State aids is neither absolute nor unconditional and is subject to numerous exceptions.
  • a) GBER
  • B) Commission Guidelines
general block exemption regulation
General Block Exemption Regulation
  • RegulationNo. 800/2008incorporates several categories of environmental protection aids into regulation
  • Advantage: Not being subject to the standstill obligation, the aid measures can be implemented immediately

(1) the guidelines may not in any way derogate from Treaty provisions;

(2) the Commission is bound by the general rules which it has adopted, and may not set them aside in individual cases.

(3) reference to the guidelines amounts to a proper statement of reasons.

  • In contrast to the GBER, the guidelines do not exempt the national authorities from the requirement to notify aids to the Commission, even where they are compatible with the guidelines.

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