COMPETITION • EUROPEAN LAW • STATE AID
After the so-called Altmark package of 2005, a set of texts laying down the conditions for granting aid to finance a service of general economic interest (SGEI), the so-called Almunia package revises the rules on compensation granted for the provision of services of general economic interest.
Decision No 2012/21 of 20 December 2011, which broadly reproduces the conditions laid down in the 2005 decision, lowers the notification threshold from EUR 30 million to EUR 15 million per year. Where the aid exceeds that threshold, it must be assessed in light of Framework 2012/C 8/03, which applies to compensation falling outside the scope of the decision. According to that decision, where the annual amount of compensation granted to undertakings entrusted with the operation of services of general economic interest is less than EUR 15 million, as well as compensation granted in particular to hospitals providing medical care and services meeting social needs, are compatible with the internal market in application of Article 106(2) TFEU and exempt form the notification requirement pursuant to Article 108, provided that several combined conditions are met:
– an act must specify the public service obligations and the conditions for calculating the compensation;
– the amount of the compensation must be in proportion to the costs incurred in discharging the public service obligations; it includes all the advantages granted by the State or through State resources in any form whatsoever;
– States must ensure that there is no overcompensation.
Framework No 2012/C 8/03, which replaces Framework No 2005/C 297/04, provides that State aid may be declared compatible with Article 106(2) of the Treaty if it is necessary for the operation of the service of general economic interest concerned and does not affect the development of trade to such an extent as to be contrary to the interests of the Union. The aid must concern a genuine service of general economic interest as referred to in Article 106(2) TFEU. It is necessary to establish an entrustment act specifying the public service obligations and the methods of calculating compensation. The duration of the period of entrustment should not exceed the period required for the depreciation of the most significant assets required to provide the SGEI. The aid must comply with rules laid down in Directive No 2006/111 on the transparency of financial relations between Member States and public undertakings as well as on financial transparency within certain undertakings and those relative to public procurement rules. Where an authority assigns the provision of the same SGEI to several undertakings, the compensation must be calculated on the basis of the same method in respect of each undertaking. The amount of compensation must not exceed what is necessary to cover the net cost of discharging the public service obligations, including a reasonable profit.