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Document 32006R1998

Commission Regulation (EC) No 1998/2006 of 15 December 2006 on the application of Articles 87 and 88 of the Treaty to de minimis aid

OJ L 379, 28.12.2006, p. 5–10 (ES, CS, DA, DE, ET, EL, EN, FR, IT, LV, LT, HU, NL, PL, PT, SK, SL, FI, SV)
OJ L 314M , 1.12.2007, p. 654–659 (MT)
Special edition in Bulgarian: Chapter 08 Volume 005 P. 96 - 101
Special edition in Romanian: Chapter 08 Volume 005 P. 96 - 101
Special edition in Croatian: Chapter 08 Volume 003 P. 197 - 202

No longer in force, Date of end of validity: 31/12/2013

ELI: http://data.europa.eu/eli/reg/2006/1998/oj

28.12.2006   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

L 379/5


COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 1998/2006

of 15 December 2006

on the application of Articles 87 and 88 of the Treaty to de minimis aid

THE COMMISSION OF THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES,

Having regard to the Treaty establishing the European Community,

Having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 994/98 of 7 May 1998 on the application of Articles 92 and 93 of the Treaty establishing the European Community to certain categories of horizontal State aid (1), and in particular Article 2 thereof,

Having published a draft of this Regulation (2),

After consulting the Advisory Committee on State aid,

Whereas:

(1)

Regulation (EC) No 994/98 empowers the Commission to set out in a Regulation a threshold under which aid measures are deemed not to meet all the criteria of Article 87(1) of the Treaty and therefore do not fall under the notification procedure provided for in Article 88(3) of the Treaty.

(2)

The Commission has applied Articles 87 and 88 of the Treaty and has, in particular, clarified in numerous decisions the notion of aid within the meaning of Article 87(1) of the Treaty. The Commission has also stated its policy with regard to a de minimis ceiling, below which Article 87(1) can be considered not to apply, initially in its notice on the de minimis rule for State aid (3) and subsequently in Commission Regulation (EC) No 69/2001 of 12 January 2001 on the application of Articles 87 and 88 of the EC Treaty to de minimis aid (4). In the light of the experience gained in applying that Regulation and in order to take account of the evolution of inflation and gross domestic product in the Community up to and including 2006 and of the likely developments through the period of validity of this Regulation, it appears appropriate to revise some of the conditions laid down in Regulation (EC) No 69/2001 and to replace that Regulation.

(3)

In view of the special rules which apply in the sectors of primary production of agricultural products, fisheries and aquaculture and of the risk that smaller amounts of aid than those set out in this Regulation could fulfil the criteria of Article 87(1) of the Treaty in those sectors, this Regulation should not apply to those sectors. Given the evolution of the transport sector, in particular the restructuring of many transport activities following their liberalisation, it is no longer appropriate to exclude the transport sector from the scope of the de minimis Regulation. The scope of this Regulation should therefore be extended to the whole of the transport sector. The general de minimis ceiling should however be adapted in order to take account of the average small size of undertakings active in the road freight and passengers transport sector. For the same reasons, and also in view of the overcapacity of the sector and of the objectives of transport policy as regards road congestion and freight transports, aid for the acquisition of road freight transport vehicles by undertakings performing road freight transport for hire and reward should be excluded. This does not call into question the Commission's favourable approach with regard to State aid for cleaner and more environmentally friendly vehicles in Community instruments other than this Regulation. In view of Council Regulation (EC) No 1407/2002 of 23 July 2002 on State aid to the coal industry (5), this Regulation should not apply to the coal sector.

(4)

Considering the similarities between the processing and marketing of agricultural products, on the one hand, and of non-agricultural products, on the other hand, this Regulation should apply to the processing and marketing of agricultural products, provided that certain conditions are met. Neither on-farm activities necessary for preparing a product for the first sale, such as harvesting, cutting and threshing of cereals, packing of eggs etc., nor the first sale to resellers or processors should be considered as processing or marketing in this respect. As from the entry into force of this Regulation, aid granted in favour of undertakings active in the processing or marketing of agricultural products should no longer be subject to Commission Regulation (EC) No 1860/2004 of 6 October 2004 on the application of Articles 87 and 88 of the EC Treaty to de minimis aid in the agriculture and fisheries sector (6). Regulation (EC) No 1860/2004 should therefore be amended accordingly.

(5)

The Court of Justice of the European Communities has established that, once the Community has legislated for the establishment of a common organisation of the market in a given sector of agriculture, Member States are under an obligation to refrain from taking any measure which might undermine or create exceptions to it. For this reason, this Regulation should not apply to aid, the amount of which is fixed on the basis of price or quantity of products purchased or put on the market. Nor should it apply to de minimis support which is linked to an obligation to share the aid with primary producers.

(6)

This Regulation should not apply to de minimis export aid or de minimis aid favouring domestic over imported products. In particular, it should not apply to aid financing the establishment and operation of a distribution network in other countries. Aid towards the cost of participating in trade fairs, or of studies or consultancy services needed for the launch of a new or existing product on a new market does not normally constitute export aid.

(7)

This Regulation should not apply to undertakings in difficulty within the meaning of the Community guidelines on State aid for rescuing and restructuring firms in difficulty (7) in view of the difficulties linked to determining the gross grant equivalent of aid granted to this type of undertakings.

(8)

In the light of the Commission's experience, it can be established that aid not exceeding a ceiling of EUR 200 000 over any period of three years does not affect trade between Member States and/or does not distort or threaten to distort competition and therefore does not fall under Article 87(1) of the Treaty. As regards undertakings active in the road transport sector, this ceiling should be set at EUR 100 000.

(9)

The years to take into account for this purpose are the fiscal years as used for fiscal purposes by the undertaking in the Member State concerned. The relevant period of three years should be assessed on a rolling basis so that, for each new grant of de minimis aid, the total amount of de minimis aid granted in the fiscal year concerned, as well as during the previous two fiscal years, needs to be determined. Aid granted by a Member State should be taken into account for this purpose even when financed entirely or partly by resources of Community origin. It should not be possible for aid measures exceeding the de minimis ceiling to be broken down into a number of smaller parts in order to bring such parts within the scope of this Regulation.

(10)

In accordance with the principles governing aid falling within Article 87(1) of the Treaty, de minimis aid should be considered to be granted at the moment the legal right to receive the aid is conferred on the undertaking under the applicable national legal regime.

(11)

In order to avoid circumvention of maximum aid intensities provided in different Community instruments, de minimis aid should not be cumulated with State aid in respect of the same eligible costs if such cumulation would result in an aid intensity exceeding that fixed in the specific circumstances of each case by a block exemption Regulation or Decision adopted by the Commission.

(12)

For the purposes of transparency, equal treatment and the correct application of the de minimis ceiling, all Member States should apply the same method of calculation. In order to facilitate this calculation and in accordance with the present practice of application of the de minimis rule, aid amounts not taking the form of a cash grant should be converted into their gross grant equivalent. Calculation of the grant equivalent of transparent types of aid other than grants or of aid payable in several instalments requires the use of market interest rates prevailing at the time of granting such aid. With a view to a uniform, transparent and simple application of the State aid rules, the market rates for the purposes of this Regulation should be deemed to be the reference rates periodically fixed by the Commission on the basis of objective criteria and published in the Official Journal of the European Union or on the Internet. It may, however, be necessary to add additional basis points on top of the floor rate in view of the securities provided or the risk associated with the beneficiary.

(13)

For the purposes of transparency, equal treatment and effective monitoring, this Regulation should apply only to de minimis aid which is transparent. Transparent aid is aid for which it is possible to calculate precisely the gross grant equivalent ex ante without a need to undertake a risk assessment. Such precise calculation can, for instance, be realised as regards grants, interest rate subsidies and capped tax exemptions. Aid comprised in capital injections should not be considered as transparent de minimis aid, unless the total amount of the public injection is lower than the de minimis ceiling. Aid comprised in risk capital measures as referred to in the Community guidelines on State aid to promote risk capital investments in small and medium-sized enterprises (8) should not be considered as transparent de minimis aid, unless the risk capital scheme concerned provides capital only up to the de minimis ceiling to each target undertaking. Aid comprised in loans should be treated as transparent de minimis aid when the gross grant equivalent has been calculated on the basis of market interest rates prevailing at the time of grant.

(14)

This Regulation does not exclude the possibility that a measure, adopted by a Member State, might not be considered as State aid within the meaning of Article 87(1) of the Treaty on the basis of other grounds than those set out in this Regulation, for instance, in the case of capital injections, because such measure has been decided in conformity with the market investor principle.

(15)

It is necessary to provide legal certainty for guarantee schemes which do not have the potential to affect trade and distort competition and in respect of which sufficient data is available to assess any potential effects reliably. This Regulation should therefore transpose the general de minimis ceiling of EUR 200 000 into a guarantee-specific ceiling based on the guaranteed amount of the individual loan underlying such guarantee. It is appropriate to calculate this specific ceiling using a methodology assessing the State aid amount included in guarantee schemes covering loans in favour of viable undertakings. The methodology and the data used to calculate the guarantee-specific ceiling should exclude undertakings in difficulty as referred to in the Community guidelines on State aid for rescuing and restructuring firms in difficulty. This specific ceiling should therefore not apply to ad hoc individual aid granted outside the scope of a guarantee scheme, to aid granted to undertakings in difficulty, or to guarantees on underlying transactions not constituting a loan, such as guarantees on equity transactions. The specific ceiling should be determined on the basis of the fact that taking account of a cap rate (net default rate) of 13 %, representing a worst case scenario for guarantee schemes in the Community, a guarantee amounting to EUR 1 500 000 can be considered as having a gross grant equivalent identical to the general de minimis ceiling. This amount should be reduced to EUR 750 000 as regards undertakings active in the road transport sector. Only guarantees covering up to 80 % of the underlying loan should be covered by these specific ceilings. A methodology accepted by the Commission following notification of such methodology on the basis of a Commission Regulation in the State aid area, like Commission Regulation (EC) No 1628/2006 of 24 October 2006 on the application of Articles 87 and 88 of the Treaty to national regional investment aid (9), may also be used by Member States for the purpose of assessing the gross grant equivalent contained in a guarantee, if the approved methodology explicitly addresses the type of guarantees and the type of underlying transactions at stake in the context of the application of the present Regulation.

(16)

Upon notification by a Member State, the Commission may examine whether an aid measure which does not consist in a grant, loan, guarantee, capital injection or risk capital measure leads to a gross grant equivalent that does not exceed the de minimis ceiling and could therefore be covered by the provisions of this Regulation.

(17)

The Commission has a duty to ensure that State aid rules are respected and in particular that aid granted under the de minimis rules adheres to the conditions thereof. In accordance with the cooperation principle laid down in Article 10 of the Treaty, Member States should facilitate the achievement of this task by establishing the necessary machinery in order to ensure that the total amount of de minimis aid, granted to the same undertaking under the de minimis rule, does not exceed the ceiling of EUR 200 000 over a period of three fiscal years. To that end, when granting a de minimis aid, Member States should inform the undertaking concerned of the amount of the aid and of its de minimis character, by referring to this Regulation. Moreover, prior to granting such aid the Member State concerned should obtain from the undertaking a declaration about other de minimis aid received during the fiscal year concerned and the two previous fiscal years and carefully check that the de minimis ceiling will not be exceeded by the new de minimis aid. Alternatively it should be possible to ensure that the ceiling is respected by means of a central register, or, in the case of guarantee schemes set up by the European Investment Fund, the latter may establish itself a list of beneficiaries and require Member States to inform the beneficiaries of the de minimis aid received.

(18)

Regulation (EC) No 69/2001 expires on 31 December 2006. This Regulation should therefore apply from 1 January 2007. In view of the fact that Regulation (EC) No 69/2001 did not apply to the transport sector, which was not subject to de minimis so far; given also the very limited de minimis amount applicable in the sector of processing and marketing of agricultural products, and provided that certain conditions are met, this Regulation should apply to aid granted before its entry into force to undertakings active in the transport sector, and in the sector of processing and marketing of agricultural products. Moreover, any individual aid granted in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 69/2001 during the period of application of that Regulation should remain unaffected by this Regulation.

(19)

Having regard to the Commission's experience and in particular the frequency with which it is generally necessary to revise State aid policy, it is appropriate to limit the period of application of this Regulation. Should this Regulation expire without being extended, Member States should have an adjustment period of six months with regard to de minimis aid covered by this Regulation,

HAS ADOPTED THIS REGULATION:

Article 1

Scope

1.   This Regulation applies to aid granted to undertakings in all sectors, with the exception of:

(a)

aid granted to undertakings active in the fishery and aquaculture sectors, as covered by Council Regulation (EC) No 104/2000 (10);

(b)

aid granted to undertakings active in the primary production of agricultural products as listed in Annex I to the Treaty;

(c)

aid granted to undertakings active in the processing and marketing of agricultural products as listed in Annex I to the Treaty, in the following cases:

(i)

when the amount of the aid is fixed on the basis of the price or quantity of such products purchased from primary producers or put on the market by the undertakings concerned,

(ii)

when the aid is conditional on being partly or entirely passed on to primary producers;

(d)

aid to export-related activities towards third countries or Member States, namely aid directly linked to the quantities exported, to the establishment and operation of a distribution network or to other current expenditure linked to the export activity;

(e)

aid contingent upon the use of domestic over imported goods;

(f)

aid granted to undertakings active in the coal sector, as defined in Regulation (EC) No 1407/2002;

(g)

aid for the acquisition of road freight transport vehicles granted to undertakings performing road freight transport for hire or reward;

(h)

aid granted to undertakings in difficulty.

2.   For the purposes of this Regulation:

(a)

‘agricultural products’ means products listed in Annex I to the EC Treaty, with the exception of fishery products;

(b)

‘processing of agricultural products’ means any operation on an agricultural product resulting in a product which is also an agricultural product, except on farm activities necessary for preparing an animal or plant product for the first sale;

(c)

‘marketing of agricultural products’ means holding or display with a view to sale, offering for sale, delivery or any other manner of placing on the market, except the first sale by a primary producer to resellers or processors and any activity preparing a product for such first sale; a sale by a primary producer to final consumers shall be considered as marketing if it takes place in separate premises reserved for that purpose.

Article 2

De minimis aid

1.   Aid measures shall be deemed not to meet all the criteria of Article 87(1) of the Treaty and shall therefore be exempt from the notification requirement of Article 88(3) of the Treaty, if they fulfil the conditions laid down in paragraphs 2 to 5 of this Article.

2.   The total de minimis aid granted to any one undertaking shall not exceed EUR 200 000 over any period of three fiscal years. The total de minimis aid granted to any one undertaking active in the road transport sector shall not exceed EUR 100 000 over any period of three fiscal years. These ceilings shall apply irrespective of the form of the de minimis aid or the objective pursued and regardless of whether the aid granted by the Member State is financed entirely or partly by resources of Community origin. The period shall be determined by reference to the fiscal years used by the undertaking in the Member State concerned.

When an overall aid amount provided under an aid measure exceeds this ceiling, that aid amount cannot benefit from this Regulation, even for a fraction not exceeding that ceiling. In such a case, the benefit of this Regulation cannot be claimed for this aid measure either at the time the aid is granted or at any subsequent time.

3.   The ceiling laid down in paragraph 2 shall be expressed as a cash grant. All figures used shall be gross, that is, before any deduction of tax or other charge. Where aid is awarded in a form other than a grant, the aid amount shall be the gross grant equivalent of the aid.

Aid payable in several instalments shall be discounted to its value at the moment of its being granted. The interest rate to be used for discounting purposes and to calculate the gross grant equivalent shall be the reference rate applicable at the time of grant.

4.   This Regulation shall apply only to aid in respect of which it is possible to calculate precisely the gross grant equivalent of the aid ex ante without need to undertake a risk assessement (‘transparent aid’). In particular:

(a)

Aid comprised in loans shall be treated as transparent de minimis aid when the gross grant equivalent has been calculated on the basis of market interest rates prevailing at the time of the grant.

(b)

Aid comprised in capital injections shall not be considered as transparent de minimis aid, unless the total amount of the public injection does not exceed the de minimis ceiling.

(c)

Aid comprised in risk capital measures shall not be considered as transparent de minimis aid, unless the risk capital scheme concerned provides capital only up to the de minimis ceiling to each target undertaking.

(d)

Individual aid provided under a guarantee scheme to undertakings which are not undertakings in difficulty shall be treated as transparent de minimis aid when the guaranteed part of the underlying loan provided under such scheme does not exceed EUR 1 500 000 per undertaking. Individual aid provided under a guarantee scheme in favour of undertakings active in the road transport sector which are not undertakings in difficulty shall be treated as transparent de minimis aid when the guaranteed part of the underlying loan provided under such scheme does not exceed EUR 750 000 per undertaking. If the guaranteed part of the underlying loan only accounts for a given proportion of this ceiling, the gross grant equivalent of that guarantee shall be deemed to correspond to the same proportion of the applicable ceiling laid down in Article 2(2). The guarantee shall not exceed 80 % of the underlying loan. Guarantee schemes shall also be considered as transparent if (i) before the implementation of the scheme, the methodology to calculate the gross grant equivalent of the guarantees has been accepted following notification of this methodology to the Commission under another Regulation adopted by the Commission in the State aid area and (ii) the approved methodology explicitly addresses the type of guarantees and the type of underlying transactions at stake in the context of the application of this Regulation.

5.   De minimis aid shall not be cumulated with State aid in respect of the same eligible costs if such cumulation would result in an aid intensity exceeding that fixed in the specific circumstances of each case by a block exemption Regulation or Decision adopted by the Commission.

Article 3

Monitoring

1.   Where a Member State intends to grant de minimis aid to an undertaking, it shall inform that undertaking in writing of the prospective amount of the aid (expressed as gross grant equivalent) and of its de minimis character, making express reference to this Regulation, and citing its title and publication reference in the Official Journal of the European Union. Where the de minimis aid is granted to different undertakings on the basis of a scheme and different amounts of individual aid are granted to those undertakings under the scheme, the Member State concerned may choose to fulfil this obligation by informing the undertakings of a fixed sum corresponding to the maximum aid amount to be granted under the scheme. In such case, the fixed sum shall be used for determining whether the ceiling laid down in Article 2(2) is met. Prior to granting the aid, the Member State shall also obtain a declaration from the undertaking concerned, in written or electronic form, about any other de minimis aid received during the previous two fiscal years and the current fiscal year.

The Member State shall only grant the new de minimis aid after having checked that this will not raise the total amount of de minimis aid received by the undertaking during the period covering the fiscal year concerned, as well as the previous two fiscal years in that Member State, to a level above the ceiling laid down in Article 2(2).

2.   Where a Member State has set up a central register of de minimis aid containing complete information on all de minimis aid granted by any authority within that Member State, the first subparagraph of paragraph 1 shall cease to apply from the moment the register covers a period of three years.

Where an aid is provided by a Member State on the basis of a guarantee scheme providing a guarantee which is financed from the EU budget under mandate through the European Investment Fund, the first subparagraph of paragraph 1 of this Article may cease to apply.

In such cases, the following monitoring system shall apply:

(a)

the European Investment Fund shall establish, on a yearly basis, on the basis of information that financial intermediaries must provide to the EIF, a list of beneficiaries of aid and of the gross grant equivalent received by each of them. The European Investment Fund shall send this information to the Member State concerned and to the Commission; and

(b)

the Member State concerned shall disseminate that information to the final beneficiaries within three months of receipt of such information from the European Investment Fund; and

(c)

the Member State concerned shall obtain a declaration from each beneficiary that the overall de minimis aid it has received does not exceed the ceiling laid down in Article 2(2). In case the ceiling is exceeded with respect to one or more beneficiaries, the Member State concerned shall ensure that the aid measure leading to the ceiling being exceeded is either notified to the Commission or recovered from the beneficiary.

3.   Member States shall record and compile all the information regarding the application of this Regulation. Such records shall contain all information necessary to demonstrate that the conditions of this Regulation have been complied with. Records regarding individual de minimis aid shall be maintained for 10 years from the date on which it was granted. Records regarding a de minimis aid scheme shall be maintained for 10 years from the date on which the last individual aid was granted under such scheme. On written request the Member State concerned shall provide the Commission, within a period of 20 working days, or such longer period as may be fixed in the request, with all the information that the Commission considers necessary for assessing whether the conditions of this Regulation have been complied with, in particular the total amount of de minimis aid received by any undertaking.

Article 4

Amendment

Article 2 of Regulation (EC) No 1860/2004 is amended as follows:

(a)

in point 1, the words ‘processing and marketing’ are deleted;

(b)

point 3 is deleted.

Article 5

Transitional measures

1.   This Regulation shall apply to aid granted before its entry into force to undertakings active in the transport sector and undertakings active in the processing and marketing of agricultural products if the aid fulfils all the conditions laid down in Articles 1 and 2. Any aid which does not fulfil those conditions will be assessed by the Commission in accordance with the relevant frameworks, guidelines, communications and notices.

2.   Any individual de minimis aid granted between 2 February 2001 and 30 June 2007, which fulfils the conditions of Regulation (EC) No 69/2001, shall be deemed not to meet all the criteria of Article 87(1) of the Treaty and shall therefore be exempt from the notification requirement of Article 88(3) of the Treaty.

3.   At the end of the period of validity of this Regulation, any de minimis aid which fulfils the conditions of this Regulation may be validly implemented for a further period of six months.

Article 6

Entry into force and period of validity

This Regulation shall enter into force on the day following that of its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union.

It shall apply from 1 January 2007 until 31 December 2013.

This Regulation shall be binding in its entirety and directly applicable in all Member States.

Done at Brussels, 15 December 2006.

For the Commission

Neelie KROES

Member of the Commission


(1)  OJ L 142, 14.5.1998, p. 1.

(2)  OJ C 137, 10.6.2006, p. 4.

(3)  OJ C 68, 6.3.1996, p. 9.

(4)  OJ L 10, 13.1.2001, p. 30.

(5)  OJ L 205, 2.8.2002, p. 1.

(6)  OJ L 325, 28.10.2004, p. 4.

(7)  OJ C 244, 1.10.2004, p. 2.

(8)  OJ C 194, 18.8.2006, p. 2.

(9)  OJ L 302, 1.11.2006, p. 29.

(10)  OJ L 17, 21.1.2000, p. 22.


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