(Source: European Commission)
The European Commission has approved a €1.2 billion Italian umbrella scheme to support the agricultural, forestry, fishery and aquaculture sectors in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The scheme was approved under the State aid Temporary Crisis Framework, adopted by the Commission on 23 March 2022, based on Article 107(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (‘TFEU’), recognising that the EU economy is experiencing a serious disturbance.
Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “This €1.2 billion scheme will enable Italy to support the agricultural, forestry, fishery and aquaculture sectors affected by the input costs increase caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the related sanctions. We continue to stand with Ukraine and its people. At the same time, we continue working closely with Member States to ensure that national support measures can be put in place in a timely, coordinated and effective way, while protecting the level playing field in the Single Market.”
The Italian measure
Italy notified to the Commission a €1.2 billion umbrella scheme to support the agricultural, forestry, fishery and aquaculture sectors in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Under this scheme, the eligible beneficiaries will be entitled to receive limited amounts of aid in any of the following forms: (i) direct grants; (ii) tax or payment advantages; (iii) repayable advances; and (iv) reduction or exemption from the payment of social security and welfare contributions.
The measure will be open to companies of all sizes active in the agricultural, forestry, fishery and aquaculture sectors affected by the price increase of electricity, animal feed and fuel caused by the current geopolitical crisis and the related sanctions.
The Commission found that the Italian scheme is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Crisis Framework. In particular, the aid (i) will not exceed €35,000 per beneficiary active in the primary production of agricultural products, fisheries and aquaculture sectors and €400,000 per company active in all other sectors; and (ii) will be granted no later than 31 December 2022.
The Commission concluded that the Italian scheme is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Crisis Framework.
On this basis, the Commission approved the aid measure under EU State aid rules.
On 23 March 2022, the Commission adopted the State aid Temporary Crisis Framework to enable Member States to use the flexibility foreseen under State aid rules to support the economy in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Temporary Crisis Framework provides for the following types of aid, which can be granted by Member States:
- Limited amounts of aid, in any form, of up to €35,000 for companies affected by the crisis active in the agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture sectors and of up to €400,000 per company affected by the crisis active in all other sectors;
- Liquidity support in form of State guarantees and subsidised loans; and
- Aid to compensate for high energy prices. The aid, which can be granted in any form, will partially compensate companies, in particular intensive energy users, for additional costs due to exceptionalgas and electricity price increases. The overall aid per beneficiary cannot exceed 30% of the eligible costs, up to a maximum of €2 million at any given point in time. When the company incurs operating losses, further aid may be necessary to ensure the continuation of an economic activity. Therefore, for energy-intensive users, the aid intensities are higher and Member States may grant aid exceeding these ceilings, up to €25 million, and for companies active in particularly affected sectors and sub-sectors up to €50 million.
Sanctioned Russian-controlled entities will be excluded from the scope of these measures.
The Temporary Crisis Framework includes a number of safeguards:
- Proportional methodology, requiring a link between the amount of aid that can be granted to businesses and the scale of their economic activity and exposure to the economic effects of the crisis;
- Eligibility conditions, for example defining energy intensive users as businesses for which the purchase of energy products amount to at least 3% of their production value; and
- Sustainability requirements, Member States are invited to consider, in a non-discriminatory way, setting up requirements related to environmental protection or security of supply when granting aid for additional costs due to exceptionally high gas and electricity prices.
The Temporary Crisis Framework will be in place until 31 December 2022. With a view to ensuring legal certainty, the Commission will assess before that date if it needs to be extended. Moreover, during its period of application, the Commission will keep the content and scope of the Framework under review in the light of developments regarding the energy markets, other input markets and the general economic situation.
The Temporary Crisis Framework complements the ample possibilities for Member States to design measures in line with existing EU State aid rules. For example, EU State aid rules enable Member States to help companies cope with liquidity shortages and needing urgent rescue aid. Furthermore, Article 107(2)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union enables Member States to compensate companies for the damage directly caused by an exceptional occurrence, such as those caused by the current crisis.
Furthermore, on 19 March 2020, the Commission adopted a Temporary Framework in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The COVID Temporary Framework was amended on 3 April, 8 May, 29 June, 13 October 2020, 28 January and 18 November 2021.
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.102896 in the State aid register on the Commission’s competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of State aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the Competition Weekly e-News.