The European Commission has launched today a public consultation inviting all interested parties to comment on a proposed targeted revision of the Communication on State aid rules for Important Projects of Common European Interest (the “IPCEI Communication”). Stakeholders can respond to the consultation for eight weeks, until 20 April 2021.
Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “To tackle those massive innovation and infrastructure challenges to green and digitise our economy, the risks can be too big for just one Member State or one company to take alone. Our rules on Important Projects of Common European Interest have recently paved the way for three cross-border projects for more innovative and sustainable batteries and microchips. They pool public and private knowledge and resources across Europe, while ensuring that State aid crowds in private investment and competition distortions are minimised. We now invite stakeholders to comment on a targeted revision of these rules, for example to further facilitate the participation of small and medium-sized enterprises in these projects and to ensure they are truly open and transparent to all Member States that wish to participate.”
The IPCEI Communication aims at facilitating the emergence of large-scale cross-border projects of significant benefit to the EU economy and its citizens by addressing important market failures in strategic value chains.
The Commission has conducted an evaluation of the current IPCEI Communication as part of the State aid Fitness Check. The evaluation showed that the current provisions of the IPCEI Communication work well overall, and are an effective tool in facilitating the emergence of IPCEIs. At the same time, some targeted adjustments may be necessary to clarify the relevant State aid rules and certain notions in line with the Commission's case practice.
In this context, the Commission is proposing a number of targeted changes to reflect the experience gained from the application of the current rules and to align the Communication with current EU priorities:
(a) to clarify certain notions (for example, the definition of “integrated project”) and provide further guidance on certain criteria set out in the Communication, such as the rules applicable when public support from different sources, including EU funds, is combined to fund an IPCEI;
(b) to facilitate the direct and indirect involvement in IPCEIs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), in line with the Commission's Industrial Strategy and the SME Strategy. In this respect, the draft revised Communication recognises the special role that SMEs play in the EU economy, and proposes to simplify the Commission's assessment in circumstances where State aid, notably to SMEs, is less likely to unduly distort competition, for example due to its amount;
(c) to further enhance the open character of IPCEIs (by, for example, providing that all Member States must be given a genuine opportunity to participate in an emerging project) and their consistency with EU policies, notably enabling the green and digital transformation.
The draft IPCEI Communication and all details about the public consultation are available online.
The current IPCEI Communication has been prolonged until the end of 2021 in order to provide predictability and legal certainty during the revision process.
In addition to the stakeholder consultation launched today, the proposed text of the IPCEI Communication will also be discussed in a meeting between the Commission and Member States that will take place towards the end of the consultation period. This process will ensure that both Member States and stakeholders will have sufficient opportunities to comment on the draft Commission proposal.
The adoption of the new IPCEI Communication is planned for the second half of 2021.
In June 2014 the Commission adopted a Communication on important projects of common European interest (IPCEI), setting out criteria under which Member States can support transnational projects of strategic significance for the EU under Article 107(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). This framework aims to encourage Member States to support projects that make a clear contribution to the EU strategic objectives.
The IPCEI Communication complements other State aid rules such as the General Block Exemption Regulation and the Research, Development and Innovation Framework, which allows supporting innovative projects with generous conditions.
Since 2014, the IPCEI Communication has been applied in the field of infrastructure as well as for integrated projects in the area of research and innovation, for microelectronics (in December 2018) and for the battery value chain (in December 2019 and in January 2021).