Yesterday, the Commission launched an open public consultation to gather views on the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), the key instrument at the heart of the EUR 800 billion NextGenerationEU recovery plan for Europe.

The RRF was established in February 2021, in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, to support Member States’ economic and social recovery. It has been a vital response to the pandemic-induced economic downturn, delivering reforms and investments, fast-forwarding the green and digital transitions and increasing the Union’s overall resilience. The RRF also remains at the core of our efforts to address the priorities linked to the EU’s energy security, industrial competitiveness, and the industrial transition to a net-zero economy.

Since its creation two years ago, the RRF has had a transformative impact on Member States’ economies, for instance driving reforms of the civil and criminal justice systems in Italy, labour market reforms in Spain, improving affordable housing in Latvia, promoting investments in offshore renewables in Greece and enabling the digitalisation of schools and businesses in Portugal. This concrete, positive impact is being recognised by citizens and stakeholders. A Eurobarometer published in January 2023 showed that the RRF is closely aligned with people’s expectations and needs.

The implementation of the RRF is now fully underway and can be kept track of on the Recovery and Resilience Scoreboard. To date, the Commission has disbursed over EUR 144 billion under the RRF. Many more disbursements are expected as we move towards the second half of the RRF’s lifetime.

To take stock of the lessons learnt so far and in line with the legal requirements of the RRF Regulation, the Commission is now carrying out a mid-term evaluation. It will assess, amongst other things, how the RRF is working on the ground, to what extent its objectives have been achieved to date, and how efficiently the funds disbursed have been spent. The findings of this consultation will be analysed and summarised in a synopsis report, and will feed into the mid-term evaluation report due in February 2024.

Citizens, social partners, and other stakeholders can provide feedback on the Have Your Say portal. The questionnaire is available in all EU languages and will be open for 12 weeks. It will be complemented by a series of targeted consultations aimed at specific categories of stakeholders throughout the year.

(For more information Veerle Nuyts – Tel.: +32 2 299 63 02; Laura Berard – Tel.: + 32 2 295 57 21)

State aid: Commission adopts revised rules for fishery and aquaculture sector

The European Commission has adopted revised Guidelines for State aid in the fishery and aquaculture sector (‘Fisheries Guidelines’). The revised Guidelines set out the conditions under which State aid granted by Member States to support the fisheries and aquaculture sectors may be considered compatible with the Single Market They reflect the EU strategic priorities, in particular the Common Fisheries Policy (‘CFP’), especially for what concerns the new European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (‘EMFAF’) and the European Green Deal.

The new State aid rules help Member States to meet the ambitious EU green targets by improving energy efficiency and mitigating the effect of climate change, without undue distortions of competition in the Single Market. In particular, they introduce the following main changes: (i) broader scope of measures targeting animal diseases in aquaculture, allowing for aid to be granted for emerging animal diseases and certain invasive alien species; (ii)new categories of aid, such as aid for fleet and cessation measures (in line with EMFAF) and aid for investments in equipment that contributes to safety of fishing vessels in the Union’s outermost regions. At the same time, it should be noted that capacity enhancing measures are unlikely to be approved.

The new Guidelines were endorsed by the Commission in December 2022 and will be applicable as of 1 April 2023.

(For more information: Arianna Podesta – Tel.: +32 2 298 70 24; Nina Ferreira – Tel.: +32 229 9 81 63; Maria Tsoni – Tel.: +32 2 299 05 26)

State aid: Commission partially withdraws decision ordering Italy to recover illegal aid from airlines operating at Sardinian airports

The European Commission has partially withdrawn a 2016 decision ordering Italy to recover illegal and incompatible aid granted to certain airlines operating at Sardinian airports. The decision follows a judgment by the Court of Justice partially annulling the 2016 Commission decision.

In July 2016, the Commission found that support granted by Italy to certain airlines operating at Sardinian airports was incompatible with EU State aid rules. Four airlines – easyJet, Volotea, Ryanair and Germanwings – appealed the Commission decision. In May 2020, the General Court upheld the Commission decision with regard to easyJet, Volotea and Germanwings. In November 2022, upon further appeal by easyJet and Volotea, the Court of Justice partially annulled the Commission decision. The Court of Justice found that the Commission had failed to show that Italy granted an undue advantage to easyJet and Volotea. Ryanair’s appeal against the Commission decision, which raised the same substantive grounds of appeal as easyJet and Volotea, is pending before the General Court.

In today’s decision, the Commission has partially withdrawn its 2016 decision insofar as it relates to easyJet and Volotea. Likewise, the Commission has decided to withdraw its decision as far as it concerns Ryanair. The Commission will now reassess the Italian public support granted to easyJet, Volotea and Ryanair under EU State aid rules, in view of the guidance provided by the Court of Justice. In particular, the Commission will assess whether the aid granted to those airlines does not go beyond what a private operator would be prepared to offer under the same circumstances (the so-called ‘market economic operator principle’), in accordance with the methodology established by the Court of Justice in its judgment.

The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.33983 in the State aid register on the Commission’s competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

(For more information: Arianna Podesta – Tel.: +32 2 298 70 24; Nina Ferreira – Tel.: +32 229 9 81 63)

The European Commission is committed to personal data protection. Any personal data is processed in line with Regulation (EC) 2018/1725. All personal information processed by the Directorate-General for Communication / European Commission Representations is treated accordingly.

Source: Cyprus News Agency