- Consider changing or adapting proposals to omit the element of State Aid.
- Design the proposal so that it fits within the terms of one of the already existing Irish State aid schemes which the European Commission has approved. The State Aid section of the European Commission’s website has a search facility for this purpose. The eligible bodies that can grant under the scheme are usually outlined in the authorisation letter that can be found in the search results. It may be possible to add other bodies by way of an amendment to the scheme. If wishing to pursue this option please contact this Unit.
- Design the scheme so that it fits within the De Minimis regulation.
- Design the proposed aid to so that it fits one of the areas within the General Block Exemption Regulation ( GBER)
- Design the proposal so that it fits within the terms of other non GBER guidelines, frameworks, notices and communications which the Commission uses when deciding whether proposed State aid may be compatible with the Treaty. (NB This option requires you to obtain advance approval from the Commission)
In order to ensure compliance, Member States must notify the Commission of proposed State Aid in advance.
There are a few exceptions to the notification requirement, namely:
- If the measure falls within the De Minimis regulation which allows overall aid of less than 200,000 euros over 3 fiscal years
- Measures which are covered under a pre-existing approved Irish Scheme
- Measures falling within the General Block Exemption regulation
If none of the above conditions are satisfied, you will need to get specific advance approval from the Commission.
“De minimis” Aid
Small amounts of aid to one undertaking, i.e. less than 200,000 Euro in any rolling 3-year period, are considered to be so small as to have no appreciable effect on competition or trade and, under the De Minimis rule, these are exempt from the general ban on State aid.
However, De Minimis payments to one undertaking under a number of measures or schemes have to cumulatively observe the 200,000 Euro limit, and Member States are required to closely monitor de minimis payments to ensure that the limit is not breached.
This does not mean that all funding under the €200,000 ceiling should be counted as De Minimis. In fact, in order to avoid the risk of the threshold being exceeded, it is generally more prudent to give the aid in the form under a Group Block Exemption or even under a scheme approved individually by the Commission. This has the advantage that the recipient undertaking is not ‘using up’ some or all of its De Minimis limit, and may potentially be able to receive other De Minimis aid, from other sources.
De Minimis Aid can be given for most purposes, including operating aid. However, De Minimis Aid cannot be given for export related activities (except attendance at trade fairs), agriculture and fisheries or aid favouring domestic over imported products.
Separate De Minimis regulations apply for aid for agricultural activities. Please contact the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine for details.
If you intend to grant/avail of De Minimis Aid please consult the Rules on Administering De Minimis Aid.
General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER)
The GBER allows Member States to bring certain state aid schemes into place without prior notification to the EU Commission, provided that they are within the parameters set out in the GBER.
See the Commission website for details of areas that fall under the GBER.
Administration and notification of General Block Exemption aid measures
You are required to send the Commission a summary information sheet about the aid measure via the State Aid Notification Interactive (SANI) system within 20 working days following the scheme coming into place. A copy of the information sheet may be found at annex II of the regulation.
Departments are also obliged to publish the full text of each aid measure granted under the GBER, or a link providing access to the full text. Summary information on each aid measure exempted under the General Block Exemption Regulation is available in the Commission’s State Aid Register.
Group Block Exemption: Evaluation of certain large budget schemes
The following GBER aid categories will be subject to an evaluation if they have an average annual budget exceeding €150 million:
- Regional aid (except operating aid),
- Aid for SMEs
- Aid for access to finance for SMEs
- Aid for R&D&I
- Aid for environmental protection (except reductions of environmental taxes under Directive 2003/96/EC)
- Aid for broadband infrastructures.
Schemes covered by the GBER, but in other categories not listed above will not be subject to evaluation requirements, regardless of their budget.
GBER schemes subject to evaluation can be implemented without prior notification to the Commission as per the 20 day SANI notification requirement outlined above. However, an evaluation plan must be submitted and agreed with the Commission within six months.
The evaluation plan should contain some standard information (e.g. objectives of the aid scheme, result indicators, envisaged methodology, timeline of the evaluation).
Further details can be found at the FAQ document on ec.europa.eu.
If a measure does not fit within the GBER, a pre-existing scheme or is not administered under De Minimis, it must be notified to the Commission. This can be a lengthy process. More straightforward cases can be expected to be resolved within 6 to 9 months. More complex cases can be expected to take longer (Thus the importance of availing of the GBER or a pre-existing Irish Scheme). Aid cannot be given until final approval has been received from the Commission.
Details of the various regulations can be found on ec.europa.eu.
Notification process for non GBER Measures
The first step in the notification process is submitting a pre-notification (i.e. a draft notification) to the Commission. . The pre-notification is then submitted via the State Aid Notification Interactive (SANI) to the Commission. SANI is administered in Ireland by this Division. Please contact us for set up details etc.
It can be useful at this stage to search the Commission’s search facility for similar authorised schemes from other Member States. You can then replicate the terms of that scheme as much as possible, in order to increase the chances of the Commission approving the proposal.
In most cases, the Commission will respond with a request for further information and / or to arrange a discussion. There can be a series of rounds of questions and answers and refinement of the proposal until the Commission is satisfied that it can be approved. However, please note that there is no guarantee that the Commission will give State Aid approval to the proposal.
The Commission will then invite the Member State to submit the final notification via SANI, and final approval should normally be given within a further two months.
Please fill in the Template for early engagement with the Commission in advance of contacting DG Comp.