Tuesday, 3 June 2008

EU TFEU: State aid regulations

The EU Treaty of Lisbon allows the Council to adopt regulations on state aid, including notifications and block exemptions.


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Article 109 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) is found in the consolidated version of the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, published in the Official Journal of the European Union, OJ 9.5.2008 C 115/93:

Part Three ‘Policies and internal actions of the Union’

Title VII Common rules on competition, taxation and approximation of laws

Chapter 1 Rules on competition

Section 2 Aids granted by states

Article 109 TFEU
(ex Article 89 TEC)

The Council, on a proposal from the Commission and after consulting the European Parliament, may make any appropriate regulations for the application of Articles 107 and 108 and may in particular determine the conditions in which Article 108(3) shall apply and the categories of aid exempted from this procedure.

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In Article 2, point 78 of the Treaty of Lisbon (ToL) the IGC 2007 amended Article 88 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) and in point 79 it dealt with Article 93 TEC. This means that no specific amendments were made to Article 89 TEC. Cf. OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/69.

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The TFEU table of equivalences tells us that Article 89 TEC first became Article 89 TFEU (ToL) in the original Treaty of Lisbon, but later renumbered Article 109 TFEU in the consolidated version (OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/211).

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The current Article 89 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) is found under Title VI ‘Common rules on competition, taxation and approximation of laws’, Chapter 1 ‘Rules on competition’, Section 2 ‘Aids granted by states’, in the latest consolidated version of the treaties in force (OJ 29.12.2006 C 321 E/78).

Readers, who need the current Article 88 TEC or want to compare the TEC and TFEU texts, notice that the words ‘acting by a qualified majority’ have been deleted according to horizontal amendment 2(d) mentioned in Article 2 of the Treaty of Lisbon. Cf. OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/41.

Both the current TEC and the future TFEU Article refer to other provisions, but each treaty has its own numbering.


Article 89 TEC

The Council, acting by a qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission and after consulting the European Parliament, may make any appropriate regulations for the application of Articles 87 and 88 and may in particular determine the conditions in which Article 88(3) shall apply and the categories of aid exempted from this procedure.

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We have now seen the starting line (the TEC in force) and finishing line (contents and numbering of the TFUE when it has entered into force), which are almost the same.

Still, for the sake of systematic comparison, we look at the arcana of the Article during the intervening treaty reform stages.

First, we turn to the European Convention, the closest thing to a constituent assembly EU citizens have had. The Article in question is located among the provisions on state aid in Part III ‘The policies and functioning of the Union’, Title III ‘Internal policies and action’, Chapter I ‘Internal market’, Section 5 ‘Rules on competition’, within Subsection 2 ‘Aids granted by Member States’.

Some differences, such as the ‘Council of Ministers’ and ‘European regulations’ reflect the terminology of the draft Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe and some are different choices of words in Article III-58, but none of them have material impact (OJ 18.7.2003 C 169/37):

Article III-58 Draft Constitution

The Council of Ministers, on a proposal from the Commission, may adopt European regulations for the application of Articles III-56 and III-57 and for determining in particular the conditions in which Article III-57(3) shall apply and the categories of aid exempted from this procedure. It shall act after consulting the European Parliament.

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In the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe the provisions on state aid were located in Part III ‘The policies and functioning of the Union’, Title III ‘Internal policies and action’, Chapter I ‘Internal market’, Section 5 ‘Rules on competition’, with Subsection 2 ‘Aid granted by Member States’.

In Article III-169 of the Constitutional Treaty the IGC 2004 introduced no material changes to the draft Constitution. The ‘Council of Ministers’ had contracted to ‘Council’ and ‘this procedure’ was expressed as ‘the procedure provided for in Article 168(3)’.

The referrals were, of course, renumbered.

Because the Constitutional Treaty is the preferred object of comparison for many readers, Article III-169 is presented in full, as agreed by the IGC 2004 (OJ 16.12.2004 C 310/73):

Article III-169 Constitution

The Council, on a proposal from the Commission, may adopt European regulations for the application of Articles III-167 and III-168 and for determining in particular the conditions in which Article III-168(3) shall apply and the categories of aid exempted from the procedure provided for in Article 168(3). It shall act after consulting the European Parliament.

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What has been said about Article 109 TFEU?


United Kingdom

Professor Steve Peers covered the Treaty of Lisbon in a number of Statewatch Analyses. ‘EU Reform Treaty Analysis no. 3.3: Revised text of Part Three, Titles I to VI of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC): Internal Market and competition’ (Version 2, 23 October 2007) includes the current Title VI Common rules on competition, taxation and approximation of laws.

Peers highlighted the amendments to Article 89 TEC by Article 89 TFEU (ToL), to be renumbered Article 109 TFEU in the consolidated version, without comment (page 28).

The analysis 3.3 and other useful Statewatch analyses are available through:

http://www.statewatch.org/euconstitution.htm


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The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) offers a convenient source of brief annotations on Lisbon Treaty amendments in ‘A comparative table of the current EC and EU treaties as amended by the Treaty of Lisbon’ (Command Paper 7311, published 21 January 2008). It offers the following comment on Article 109 TFEU, Article 89 TFEU (ToL) in the original Lisbon Treaty (page 11):

“Unchanged from Article 89 TEC.”

The FCO comparative table is available at:

http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm73/7311/7311.asp

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The UK House of Commons Library Research Paper 07/86 ‘The Treaty of Lisbon: amendments to the Treaty establishing the European Community’ (published 6 December 2007) discussed competition, including the state aid provisions, on pages 57 to 60, but it offered no comment on Article 89 TEC and TFEU (ToL).

The Library Research Paper 07/86 is available at:

http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/rp2007/rp07-086.pdf

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The House of Lords European Union Committee report ‘The Treaty of Lisbon: an impact assessment, Volume I: Report’ (HL Paper 62-I, published 13 March 2008) discussed the internal market and competition on pages 218 and 219, but I found no reference to Article 109 TFEU (Article 89 TEC and ToL) in this context.

The report is accessible at:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200708/ldselect/ldeucom/62/62.pdf

In case anyone wants to dig deeper, state aid is discussed ‘passim’ in Volume II of the report ‘Evidence’.


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Sweden

The consultation paper ’Lissabonfördraget’ is still valuable as a description of the Lisbon Treaty amendments, and it is available at:

http://www.regeringen.se/content/1/c6/09/49/81/107aa077.pdf

The Swedish government’s draft ratification bill ‘Lagrådsremiss – Lissabonfördraget’, was published 29 May 2008 and sent to the Council on Legislation (Lagrådet) for an expert opinion. The draft deals with the EU’s internal policy areas in Chapter 23 ‘Unionens interna åtgärder’, and section 23.1 presents the internal market (Inre marknaden), on pages 175 to 181, but I found no mention of Article 89 TEC and ToL there.

In a section discussing services of general economic interest (21.2 Tjänster av allmänt ekonomiskt intresse) the government of Sweden remarked that the legal base for block exemptions, Article 89 TEC, can be used to clarify the financing conditions of such services (pages 165–166):

”I artikel 16 klargörs att den artikeln inte påverkar fördragets regler om statsstöd och konkurrens i artiklarna 73, 86 och 87 i EG-fördraget. Företag som anförtrotts att utföra tjänster av allmänt ekonomiskt intresse omfattas av bestämmelserna i EG-fördraget – särskilt konkurrensbestämmelserna – i den utsträckning som dessa bestämmelser inte hindrar företaget att fullgöra sina uppgifter. Handelns utveckling får dock inte påverkas i en omfattning som strider mot gemenskapens intresse (artikel 86 i EG-fördraget). I den mån finansieringen av tjänsterna kan tolkas som statligt stöd kan den rättsliga grunden för gruppundantag (artikel 89 i EG-fördraget) utnyttjas för att klargöra finansieringsvillkoren.”

The draft bill ‘Lagrådsremiss – Lissabonfördraget’ can be downloaded through:

http://www.regeringen.se/sb/d/5676/a/106277

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Finland

Even the Finnish ratification bill, ‘Hallituksen esitys Eduskunnalle Euroopan unionista tehdyn sopimuksen ja Euroopan yhteisön perustamissopimuksen muuttamisesta tehdyn Lissabonin sopimuksen hyväksymisestä ja laiksi sen lainsäädännön alaan kuuluvien määräysten voimaansaattamisesta’ (HE 23/2008 vp), is quite laconic in its statement about the unchanged nature of Article 89 TFEU (ToL), renumbered Article 109 TFEU (page 208):

”89 artiklaa (uusi 109 artikla), jossa määrätään 87 ja 88 artiklan soveltamista koskevien neuvoston asetusten antamisesta, ei muuteta.”

The Finnish ratification bill is available at:

http://www.finlex.fi/fi/esitykset/he/2008/20080023.pdf


The Swedish language version of the ratification bill ‘Regeringens proposition till Riksdagen med förslag om godkännande av Lissabonfördraget om ändring av fördraget om Europeiska unionen och fördraget om upprättandet av Europeiska gemenskapen och till lag om sättande i kraft av de bestämmelser i fördraget som hör till området för lagstiftningen’ (RP 23/2008 rd), is equally terse in its description of Article 89 TFEU (ToL), the future Article 109 TFEU, on page 211:

”Artikel 89 (blivande artikel 109), där det föreskrivs om att rådet får anta de förordningar som behövs för tilämpningen av artiklarna 87 och 88, ändras inte.”

The ratification bill in Swedish can be accessed at:

http://www.finlex.fi/sv/esitykset/he/2008/20080023.pdf

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Knowing that the Council’s powers are undiminished at the treaty level, the reader can now turn to the secondary legislation on state aid emanating from present and future competences.


Ralf Grahn