ANNOUNCEMENT 30 Jan 2009In January 2009, the government of Austria announced a new commercial policy plan.
NUMBER OF INTERVENTIONS
the letter from the European Commission to Austria - Brussels, C(2009) final. Avaliable from < http://ec.europa.eu/competition/state_aid/cases/229580/229580_937283_3_1.pdf >
Amendment: the letter from the EC to Austria - State aid N 317/2009. Available from < http://ec.europa.eu/competition/state_aid/cases/231454/231454_968050_28_1.pdf >
2nd amendment: the letter from the EC to Austria - State aid SA.32171. Available from < http://ec.europa.eu/competition/state_aid/cases/238928/238928_1198956_69_2.pdf >
On 30 January 2009, Austria notified a federal framework ("Rahmenregelung für Beihilfenmaßnahmen zur Bekämpfung der aktuellen Finanz und Wirtschaftskrise") containing five aid measures under the "Temporary Framework for State aid measures to support access to finance in the current financial and economic crisis" (the Temporary Framework).
The aid will be provided in the form of transparent forms of aid, as defined by the General Block Exemption Regulation, and in particular, in the form of direct grants, interest rate subsidies, subsidized public loans with an element which is calculated on the basis of the communication on the revision of the method for setting the reference and discount rates (2008/C14/02) and public guarantees where the aid element is calculated either on the basis of notified methodologies, or on the basis of the safe harbor premiums laid down in the annex A to the amended Temporary Framework.
The Austrian authorities estimate that under the scheme aid not exceeding EUR 150 million will be granted in 2009 and 2010, however, the aid shall not exceed EUR 500,000 per undertaking. The scheme applies to SMEs and large firms. The Austrian authorities estimate the number of beneficiaries will exceed 1000 firms. Export aid and aid favoring domestic over imported goods and services are excluded.
The Commission stated that the notified measure constitutes state aid within the meaning of Article 87 (1) of the EC Treaty and gave the following assessment: "State resources are involved in the notified scheme since the aid is granted from federal and regional resources, via the respective aid granting authorities at federal and regional level; the measure is selective since aid is awarded only to certain undertakings; the measure conveys an advantage by making available limited amounts of compatible aid which would not be available to the beneficiaries without the measure; the measure affects trade between Member States since the scheme is not limited to beneficiaries which are active in sectors where no intra-community trade exists; the measure distorts or threatens to distort competition." (par. 20-24 of the letter from the EC to Austria- Brussels, C(2009) final).
Article 87(3)(b) of the EC Treaty enables the Commission to declare aid compatible with the Common Market if it is "to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State." This aid has to be applied restrictively and must tackle a disturbance in the entire economy of the Member State according to the interpretation of the Article 87(3)(b) by the Court of First Instance.
The Commission referred to its Communication on the financial crisis and concludes that the Measure complies with the conditions laid therein. Therefore, despite the measure constituting State aid pursuant to the Article 87(1) EC, it is compatible with the Common Market according to the Article 87(3)(b) EC Treaty. The Commission raises no objections against the measure at issue and authorizes it as emergency intervention in the face of the current financial crisis. (par. 26-30 of the letter).
On 26 May 2009 Austria notified an amendment to the existing federal framework scheme "Limited amounts of compatible aid under the Temporary Framework" ("Österreichregelung Kleinbeihilfen").
The Austrian authorities stated that under the macroeconomic situation lending conditions and credit availability remain negative. The Austrian authorities consider that in order to stimulate the national economy particularly large enterprises are urgently in need of a facilitated access to financing. Therefore the national legislator drafted a new national legal act called "Unternehmensliquiditätsstärkungsgesetz". This legal act will allow aid to be granted in the form of public guarantees to the benefit of large enterprises.
Austria notified the amendment in order to increase the estimated overall budget due to the insertion of the above mentioned legal act "Unternehmensliquiditätsstärkungsgesetz" as further legal base under the existing federal framework. For the amended scheme the Austrian authorities indicate an additional amount of EUR 10 billion.
The Commission approved the scheme "Limited amounts of compatible aid under the Temporary Framework" (N 47a/2009) on 20 March 2009. In its evaluation of the original state aid scheme the EuropeanCommission found that the implementation of the scheme would likelydistort competition within the Common Market.
The Commission, however, considered that the scheme was in conformity with the Temporary Framework and with the Treaty on the basis of Article 87 (3) (b). Therefore, the notified amendment does not altersuch assessment. (par. 10 of the letter from the EC to Austria -State aid N 317/2009).
For these reasons, the Commission considered that the notified measureis in conformity with the Temporary Framework and considers it to becompatible with the Treaty on the basis of Article 87(3)(b).
The amendment is valid from 1.07.2009 to 31.12.2010
On 30 March 2011, the European Commission approved to extend the state aid package until the end of the year 2011. During this additional period, the additional budget is estimated at 300 million EUR.
A state measure in the GTA database is assessed solely in terms of the extent to which its implementation affects the extent of discrimination against foreign commercial interests. On this metric, the state aid proposed here is discriminatory.