SME Chamber

Enforcement of State Aid law by national courts

 The European Commission (DG Competition) published a communication on the "Enforcement of State Aid Law by National Courts". To promote the use of national courts, in order to fight illegal aid given to (large) competitors, may be an efficient way to ensure a level playing filed for small enterprises.

In most of the cases legal complains to national courts may be a more efficient way to stop illegal aid than sending complains to the EU Commission, which needs normally much more time to take and to enforce negative State aid decisions.

The guiding principles for a comprehensive reform of state aid rules and procedures over the next five years have been outlined in a State Aid Action Plan just adopted by the European Commission.


In particular, the Commission intends to use the EC Treaty's state aid rules to encourage Member States (MS) to contribute to the Lisbon Strategy by focussing aid on improving the competitiveness of EU industry and creating sustainable jobs, on ensuring social and regional cohesion and improving public services.

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes commented: "The state aid reforms outlined in the Action Plan aim to ensure MS have a clear, comprehensive and predictable framework, so that they can provide state aid which contributes to cohesion, competitiveness and high quality public services."

The State Aid Action Plan is based on the following elements:

  • Less distortive and better targeted state aid, in line with the European Council's repeated declarations, so that public money is used effectively to the benefit of EU citizens in terms of improving economic efficiency, generating more growth and sustainable jobs, social and regional cohesion, improving services of general economic interest, sustainable development and cultural diversity

a more refined economic approach, so that less distortive aid, particularly where money is less easily available from financial markets, can be approved more easily and quickly and so that the Commission concentrates its resources on the cases liable to create  

  • more serious distortions of competition and trade
  • more streamlined and efficient procedures, better enforcement, higher predictability and enhanced transparency. For example, MS currently have to notify the Commission most of the state subsidies they want to give. The Commission proposes to exempt more measures from this notification obligation and to simplify procedures.
  • a shared responsibility between the Commission and Member States: the Commission cannot improve state aid rules and practice without the effective support of MS and their full commitment to comply with their obligations to notify any envisaged aid and to enforce the rules properly.

This is a positive proposal for GRTU and its members and therefore GRTU urges the national authorities to react positively on this initiative of the European Commission.


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