State aid during temporary crisis: what’s in it for you?

The trade sanctions worldwide that were imposed on Russia unfortunately take a toll on our companies. Even the European Commission admits this now. It therefore announced on 23 March 2022 that it adopted a temporary crisis framework whereby companies that have suffered from the consequences of the war in Ukraine can apply for state aid from Member States.

Under normal circumstances, such “state aid” is confined to EU State aid rules so that the aid cannot affect competition between companies. State aid may therefore be granted only under specific conditions and limitations. If the granting authority does not comply with these conditions and limitations, the company that received the aid is compelled to repay it.

These conditions have now been somewhat relaxed so that Member States have a wider range of possibilities to support companies in difficulties. More specifically, Member States can adopt additional aid measures without breaching normal State aid rules:

  1. The first measure under the temporary crisis framework is the possibility for Member States to grant (limited or unlimited) aid to companies that have been affected by the European and/or Russian (trade or non-trade) sanctions. The schemes can grant up to €35,000 for companies active in agriculture and fisheries and up to €400,000 for companies active in other sectors. This aid does not need to be linked to increasing energy prices, and Members States are at liberty to determine how they should grant the aid (e.g., a direct subsidy).
  2. The second measure relates to the possibility for the Member States to provide subsidized State guarantees so that banks can continue to grant loans to companies that are affected by the current crisis, as well as the possibility to grant public- and private loans with subsidized interest rates. The loans can relate to investment and working capital needs.
  3. The third measure relates to the possibility for Member States to compensate intensive energy users for the extra costs that they have incurred because of the exceptional electricity price increases. The aid is capped at 30% of the eligible costs for gas and electricity, with an absolute maximum of €2 million.

In addition, there is also a possibility to grant further aid to high energy users who suffer from operational losses in order to ensure their continuity. The sums of the aid that can be granted as extra aid in this framework vary but is limited to €25 million for high energy users and €50 million for companies active in certain sectors (e.g., metals, glass fibers, or chemicals).

Whether your company will be able to effectively obtain additional aid under the temporary crisis framework depends on the decisions that will be taken in this regard by the Belgian governments. In other words, the temporary crisis framework of the European Commission does not give companies an automatic right to this aid, but merely gives Member States the possibility to rely on such aid.

The temporary crisis framework is valid until 31 December 2022, but it could be extended. Needless to say, companies that are Russia-controlled cannot rely on the crisis framework developed.

Do you have more questions about State aid under the temporary crisis framework or about other State aid that your company has received? Contact our competition law department. They will gladly help you further.

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