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European Commission simplifies the rules on state aid to the fisheries sector

The European Commission adopted a new set of rules on state aid to the fisheries sector (including aquaculture).

July 7, 2004


The European Commission has adopted a new set of rules on state aid to the fisheries sector. These rules bring state aid policy into line with the reformed Common Fisheries Policy, adopted in December 2002. They also simplify the granting of aid by Member States, when the aid is unlikely to threaten conservation or to distort competition. The new rules provide for a ‘block exemption( for certain types of aid which will no longer have to be notified to and approved by the Commission before Member States can implement them. Aid not covered by this exemption will still have to be notified and assessed by the Commission under guidelines ( also adopted today. The new rules follow the conditions guiding the granting of EU aid under the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG). They will become applicable from 1 November 2004

Franz Fischler, Commissioner responsible for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries said: “This is a balanced and coherent package that provides for simpler and quicker procedures while guaranteeing the control necessary to ensure that rules are respected.”

Block exemption

The measures covered by the block exemption relate to aid unlikely to threaten conservation or distort competition in a manner not in line with EU interest and which therefore has never given rise to investigation procedures by the Commission. The aid concerned has to comply strictly with the criteria set out in the block exemption regulation, which are identical to those governing the allocation of EU funds under FIFG.

The categories subject to exemption include aid for:

  • promotion and/or advertising of fisheries products
  • producers' groups
  • protection and development of aquatic resources
  • innovative measures and technical assistance
  • fishing port facilities
  • scrapping of fishing vessels
  • socio-economic measures
  • investment in processing and/or marketing of fisheries products
  • aquaculture and inland fishing

as well as tax exemptions on fuel implemented pursuant to Council Directives on energy taxes and VAT, insofar as these tax exemptions constitute State aid.

The block exemption will apply to aid granted to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) for amounts below € 1 million or to aid designed to finance measures with a maximum eligible amount of € 2 million.

To ensure the proper allocation of such aid, monitoring will take place through a simplified ex-ante information of the Commission on the aid to be granted, published on the internet and the Official Journal, and ex post reporting obligations.

Notification and assessment of other aids under new guidelines

Aid not covered by the block exemption will still have to be notified by Member States to the Commission. The continued notification obligation covers aid to the fleet, aid for temporary cessation of fishing activities and for compensation for damages due to natural disasters or exceptional circumstances.

Aid exceeding the thresholds set under the block exemption Regulation adopted today or granted to enterprises other than small and medium enterprises, will also still have to be notified to and assessed by the Commission. To be approved, aid will have to comply with criteria set out in the Guidelines which are in accordance with those guiding the granting of aid under the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG).

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