The fishery and aquaculture sector is submitted to rules on competition only to the extent determined by the European Parliament and the Council in line with Article 42 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). Thus, the public spending could be categorized in the following way:
1. through the EU's financial instrument – the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF)
2. by means of State aid i.e. aid granted by the EU countries to the fishing and aquaculture industry other than financing under the EMFF within the scope of Article 42 TFEU.
For further information about the delimitation between these two categories, please see the presentation.
State aid is in principle not compatible with the internal market except for specific cases such as:
If none of these two specific cases is applicable, then each Member State has to notify to the Commission any state aid scheme it wishes to put in place or any State aid is intends to grant, and may not implement the scheme or grant the aid before the Commission has declared that it complies with the Treaty. (See Article 3 of Council Regulation (EU) 2015/1589 and Article 2 of Commission Regulation 794/2004).
In the course of investigating the State aid cases, the Commission may process personal data. For further information please see the specific privacy statement.
How is the notification done?
Aid must be notified electronically through SANI2, via the Permanent Representation to the EU of the Member State concerned. The Member State must complete both the sheet on General Information and the Supplementary Information sheet for state aid to the fishery and aquaculture sector.
General Information sheet
The General Information sheet was amended by Commission Regulation (EU) 2015/2282 of 27 November 2015 amending Regulation (EC) No 794/2004 as regards the notification forms and information sheets (OJ L 325, 10.12.2015, p. 1–180).
Supplementary Information sheet for State aid to the fishery and aquaculture sector
The currently applicable Supplementary Information sheet for State aid to the fishery and aquaculture sector was introduced by Commission Regulation (EU) 2016/2105 of 1 December 2016 amending Annex I to Regulation (EC) No 794/2004 as regards the form to be used for the notification of State aid to the fishery and aquaculture sector (OJ L 327, 2.12.2016, p. 19).
What are the consequences if a Member State fails to notify?
If a Member State puts in place a State aid scheme or grants individual aid without notifying it to the Commission or without having obtained its approval of the notified scheme or aid, the State aid or State aid scheme will be considered unlawful (see Article 1, point (f) of Council Regulation (EU) 2015/1589). In addition, the beneficiaries of an unlawful aid will in principle be ordered to pay back the aid. (see Article 16 of this Regulation).
When is no notification needed?
Certain types of State aid to the fisheries and aquaculture sector are deemed to be compatible with the internal market, and therefore do not have to wait for approval by the Commission before they are put in place. A notification is not needed in case of:
1. types of aid covered by a block exemption regulation (Commission Regulation 1388/2014 - the new block exemption regulation applicable to the sector was adopted on 16.12.2014 and entered into force on 01.01.2015).
2. de minimis aid (Commission Regulation 717/2014; see below).
However, each member state has to prepare annually a report on all the State aid it has given during the year, including aid that falls under the de minimis rules. The report has to be submitted in electronic format by 30 June (see Articles 5 and 6 of Commission Regulation 794/2004; the information to be submitted is explained in Annex III C in this Regulation).
The Court of Justice of the EU has ruled in a case when a Member State failed to send in its annual reports within the deadline (see Judgment of the Court of Justice of 12 January 2006 – Commission v Luxembourg (Case C-69/05)).
De minimis aid rules in the fishery and aquaculture sector
State aid not exceeding a certain ceiling over a period of time is deemed not to meet all the criteria laid down in Article 107(1) TFEU. This is the so-called de minimis aid. Commission Regulation 717/2014 (replacing Commission Regulation (EC) No 875/2007) sets the ceiling at 30 000 EUR per beneficiary over any period of three years. In addition, each Member State has to respect the maximum cumulative amount set out in the annex to De minimis Regulation (the so-called national cap) while granting aid to the undertakings active in the fishery and aquaculture sector. De minimis aid granted to all undertakings in the fishery and aquaculture sector over three-year period cannot exceed 2,5 % of the annual catching, processing and aquaculture turnover per Member State.
The de minimis aid in particular:
a. has to be managed in a transparent way;
b. may not be used for the purchase of fishing vessels, for modernisation or replacement of main or ancillary engines of fishing vessels or to operations increasing the fishing capacity of a vessel or equipment increasing the ability of a vessel to find fish or any other ineligible operations under the EMFF Regulation;
c. may not exceed the ceiling of 30 000 EUR for any period of three fiscal years.
This list of conditions is not exhaustive.
Member States need to put in place control measures, which make it possible to verify that the rules have been complied with.
Under Article 24 of Council Regulation (EU) 2015/1589 certain parties may submit complaints to inform the Commission of any alleged unlawful aid or misuse of aid. When lodging a complaint, interested parties are required to duly complete the form for such complaints set out in Annex IV to Commission Regulation (EC) No 794/2004.
For further information, a link to the form, and the possibility to fill in the form online, see the dedicated webpage of DG Competition.