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EU Approves Block Exemption for State Aid

EU - The European Commission has approved a block exemption Regulation for fisheries, according to which certain types of national aid to the fisheries sector will no longer have to be notified to and approved by the Commission before Member States can implement them.

The purpose of this regulation is to simplify the application of State aid rules by declaring certain types of aid compatible with the common market and exempted from the requirement of prior notification, on condition that they comply with the relevant conditions established for similar actions under the European Fisheries Fund (EFF).

The Regulation includes all categories of aid covered by the EFF, with the exception of aid for investments in the fleet and aid for sustainable development of fisheries areas. As a result, Member States that wish to grant State aid in the eligible areas may do so by submitting the relevant summary information to the Commission for publication.

The measures covered by the block exemption relate to aid unlikely to distort competition and which therefore has never given rise to investigation procedures by the Commission. The new Regulation replaces Regulation (EC) No 1595/2004 which performed the same function in relation to the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance, and it follows the same approach.

It also extends the block exemption to certain new areas, such as aid for temporary cessation of activity, where the EFF conditions are sufficiently clear and unambiguous. Other areas, however, such as aid for vessel modernisation, will remain subject to in depth ex ante assessment by the Commission.

The Regulation also exempts, under certain conditions, aid in the form of tax exemptions on fuel implemented pursuant to the Council Directive on energy taxation, insofar as these tax exemptions constitute State aid.

The block exemption applies only to aid granted to small and medium-sized enterprises. The amount of aid exempted may not exceed € 1 million, and the projects financed may not have eligible costs in excess of € 2 million.

To ensure the proper allocation of such aid, monitoring will be carried out in the form of a simplified procedure for informing the Commission of the aid to be granted, followed by publication on the internet and in the Official Journal, and reporting obligations once the aid in question has been delivered.

Aid not covered by the block exemption Regulation will remain subject to the obligation of prior notification to the Commission and will be assessed under the new Guidelines for the examination of State aid to fisheries and aquaculture, which were adopted in April 2008 (MEX/08/0312).

What is covered by the new block exemption? And what is not?

Actions financed from national funds in the following areas which fulfil the criteria of the new block exemption regulation, and comply with the detailed conditions for such measures as laid down in the EFF, are exempt from prior notification:

  • Aid for permanent and temporary cessation of fishing activities
  • Aid for socio-economic compensation for the management of the fleet
  • Aid for productive investments in aquaculture
  • Aid for aqua-environmental measures
  • Aid for public health measures
  • Aid for animal health measures
  • Aid for inland fishing
  • Aid for processing and marketing
  • Aid for collective actions
  • Aid for measures intended to protect and develop aquatic fauna and flora
  • Aid for investments in fishing ports, landing sites and shelters
  • Aid for development of new markets and promotional campaigns
  • Aid for pilot projects
  • Aid for modification for reassignment of fishing vessels
  • Aid for technical assistance
  • Tax exemptions in accordance with the Energy Taxation Directive (2003/96/EC)

Actions in all other areas will remain subject to prior notification, however, including in particular:

  • Aid for vessel modernisation
  • Aid for the sustainable development of fisheries