The European Commission has launched a consultation this week (Tuesday, January 11) on the revision of state aid rules affecting the agricultural, forestry and fishery sectors.

It was proposed to align the current state aid rules with the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the Common Fishery Policy and the European Green Deal.

Namely, those state aid rules are the Agricultural Block Exemption Regulation (ABER), the Fishery Block Exemption Regulation (FIBER) and the Fishery de minimis Regulation.

Announcing the consultation, executive vice-president, Margrethe Vestager, said:

“Today’s proposals aim to ensure that our rules on state aid for the agricultural, forestry and fishery sectors are fit for the green transition.”

Under the revised rules, member states will be able to provide funding faster and more easily, Vestager said.

The European Commission is inviting all member states and interested parties to comment on proposed revised state aid rules until March 13, 2022.

The commission said that it considers that the current rules in place largely meet the needs of the sectors and also contribute to broader EU objectives including environmental protection, animal and public health.

However, evaluation showed that current rules need to be revised including clarifications, simplifications and adjustments to further reflect market and technological developments.

Proposed revisions also aim to make adjustments to further reflect the current EU’s strategic priorities including the European Green Deal, the Farm to Fork Strategy and the Biodiversity Strategy.

Proposed revisions

To speed up the state aid approval procedure, the commission proposes to consider member states’ actions as part of their CAP Strategic Plan to be in line with the EU state aid rules.

New proposed aid categories include aid for the prevention, control and eradication of infestation by invasive alien species and emerging diseases to protect plant, animal and public health.

The revised guidelines also seek to increase the maximum aid intensity to 120% of the eligible costs for biodiversity, climate, water or soil related services and carbon farming schemes.

Block exemption regulation is proposed for new categories in both the agricultural and fishery sector.

This means specific categories are exempt from the requirement of prior notification to and approval by the commission, which enables member states to quickly provide aid, where conditions limiting the distortion of competition in the single market are met.

New categories to be block exempted include “the aid to make good the damages caused by protected species of animals and aid to compensate for the additional costs incurred” when agricultural land is situated in protected areas.

Around 80% of state aid measures in the agricultural sector are now implemented by member states without the need for prior approval by the commission.

Next steps

The draft revised state aid rules will be discussed between the European Commission and the member states towards the end of the consultation period (until March 13, 2022) and once the drafts are revised.

The adoption of the revised rules is planned for the end of 2022.