What are government regulations for the economy

State aid control policy

The functioning of the internal market depends to a large extent on a level playing field for economic players. State aid (subsidies) granted by a member state of the European Union (EU) to individual companies can distort free competition to a particularly high degree. State aid does not only mean direct financial contributions to companies, debt relief or discounted loans, but also guarantees, tax breaks or the provision of real estate, goods and services at special conditions. In order to guarantee fair competition in Europe, the member states of the EU have adopted strict rules governing the conditions under which such aid is permitted and when not.

State aid

In principle, the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (AEU Treaty) provides for a ban on state aid. However, this prohibition of state aid does not apply without exception. The European Commission can authorize aid that is compatible with the internal market. For example, support measures in the area of ​​regional promotion, energy and environmental policy or in research, development and innovation can be considered compatible with the internal market under certain conditions.

The member states have decided that control over state aid lies in the exclusive competence of the European Commission ("guardian of the Treaties"), which in principle gives it the right, even in policy areas in which it has no material competence (for example in the Tax or employment policy) to exercise competition oversight. Therefore, all planned aid-related measures must be reported to the European Commission or even formally notified ("notified") and approved by it.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) is in charge of fundamental questions of European state aid control policy at the national level. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy also represents the Federal Republic of Germany in most state aid proceedings before the European Commission. Only in the special areas of agriculture and transport is this task performed by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI).

The responsibility of the BMWi includes, in particular, the initial notification of individual aid or aid regulations to the European Commission, the monitoring of the notification procedure and - after the European Commission has approved aid measures - the mediation between the European Commission and the various national aid providers (such as federal and state ministries Municipalities and promotional banks) in the implementation of the aid measures (e.g. in the form of annual reports) including any recovery procedures (in the event of a negative decision by the European Commission).

Politically, the BMWi advocates a coherent state aid policy and strict competition supervision in the EU, which ensures equal and fair competition. At the same time, however, sufficient leeway must be maintained for the promotion of important goals in Germany, for example within the framework of national and European regional and structural policy, research and technology policy or SME promotion.

Legal basis / procedure

A general prohibition of state aid is established by Article 107 (1) of the TFEU. Exceptions to this are regulated in Article 107 Paragraphs 2 and 3.

Paragraph 2 states that certain aids are in any case compatible with the internal market, so that the European Commission does not have the power to comment on the advisability of applying the exceptions contained therein. The European Commission alone examines whether the legal requirements contained in paragraph 2 are met and, if necessary, is obliged to approve the aid. With regard to the types of aid mentioned in paragraph 3, however, the European Commission has a wide margin of discretion. If the European Commission confirms the existence of an aid, it can determine that one of the exceptions mentioned in paragraph 3 applies. In contrast to paragraph 2, in this case it is not obliged to approve.

Member States that intend to grant aid are obliged to notify or notify the European Commission of their plans before they carry out this measure ("notification and standstill requirement"). The State aid in question can therefore only be granted after the conclusion of a procedure during which the European Commission examines whether the conditions of Article 107 (2) or (3) of the TFEU are met.

As part of the exercise of its powers, the European Commission has developed secondary and tertiary law provisions (regulations, directives, notifications, Union frameworks, guidelines) on which it bases the exercise of its decision-making powers under Article 107 (3) of the TFEU. These regulations were last fundamentally and comprehensively revised by the European Commission in 2012-2014.

In implementing the State Aid Modernization (SAM) initiative of the European Commission, the BMWi has developed a compliance strategy for state aid control in Germany, within the framework of which various handouts, recommendations and working papers were presented - initially for the following subject areas:

1) General EU state aid law

2) compliance

3) Aid recovery

4) General Block Exemption Regulation

5) Special topics

  • Commission working document: Entering information in the transparency module for the approval of state aid (TAM) (PDF: 135 KB)
  • Commission SGEI Guide (PDF: 727 KB)
  • Awareness paper: "one time, last time" principle, February 2016 (PDF: 31 KB)
  • Awareness-raising paper: State-owned holding companies, February 2016 (PDF: 31 KB)
  • Awareness-raising paper: Company privatizations, February 2016 (PDF: 30 KB)
  • Awareness-raising paper: State guarantees, February 2016 (PDF: 31 KB)
  • Awareness-raising paper: Funding from the ESI Funds, February 2016 (PDF: 21 KB)
  • Awareness paper: Corporate taxation, June 2016 (PDF: 23 KB)
  • Awareness-raising paper: Legislative changes, February 2016 (PDF: 30 KB)
  • Awareness-raising paper: Land sales, June 2016 (PDF: 30 KB)
  • Awareness-raising paper: Incentive effect in state aid law, March 2016 (PDF: 33 KB)
  • Awareness-raising paper: State aid schemes with discriminatory content, March 2016 (PDF: 30 KB)
  • Awareness-raising paper: Extension of expiring aid schemes, March 2016 (PDF: 29 KB)

6) Federal framework regulations

7) Structural Funds and EU State Aid Law

8) "Small municipalities" information package

9) State aid control policy websites