IRU welcomes the revision of rules governing small amounts of aid that Member States can grant to companies without clearance from the European Commission. In addition to a much-needed indexation of the de minimis amount, the amendments correct a historical injustice, removing limits on de minimis aid for road freight operators, providing them with equal rights as other EU undertakings.
In the much-awaited revision, the European Commission has increased the amount of de minimis from EUR 200,000 per enterprise over a three-year period to EUR 300,000. This applies across the economy. In the road transport sector, if Member States unleash the funds, they can be accessed by any operator active in the mobility of people and goods.
In addition to the very necessary indexation, the revision puts an end to a specific discrimination against companies active in the transport of goods by road.
For over 30 years since the inception of the de minimis system, the maximum amount of de minimis aid granted to a single goods transport operator was limited to half the amount set for other types of undertakings. Additionally, the previous rules excluded the utilisation of de minimis aid for fleet renewal.
As advocated for by IRU, the new rules now allow road freight carriers to benefit from de minimis state aid under the same rules as other undertakings, with an increased ceiling of up to EUR 300,000 over a three-year period and without any limit on the scope of the aid.
IRU EU Director of Advocacy Raluca Marian said, “Christmas came early this year for the EU road transport industry. The European Commission has rightly recognised that the arguments made for setting a lower ceiling for our industry are no longer valid.”
“When it comes to small amounts of aid, transport operators can now rely on a just EU framework allowing them to receive support from Member States in the same way as any other enterprise. For a freight company, this means triple the amount of what was previously possible,” she added.
“The average road transport operator is a small enterprise with razor thin margins. But the investments needed for the green transition are big. Companies in the EU face substantial investment requirements for zero-emission vehicles, which cost two to three times more than diesel vehicles. While the revision does not automatically unleash the necessary funds, it creates the framework for Member States to act unrestrictedly below the new thresholds, and open new decarbonisation avenues for the industry,” concluded Raluca Marian.
The fundamental law of the European Union, the Treaty for the Functioning of the EU, generally prohibits aid granted by a Member State to companies due to a presumption that such aid distorts, or threatens to distort, competition by favouring aid recipients.
The European Commission can clear state aid measures if it finds that a set of criteria that invalidate the presumption are met. However, the notification process is long and the outcome is uncertain, which led to the EU setting up a system of block exemption regulations (BERs). BERs prescribe certain conditions which, if met, automatically allow support measures without having to notify the European Commission.
The rational of the de minimis BER is that the amount of aid is so small that it could not possibly distort competition within the internal market. The Commission created the de minimis policy in 1992 to benefit small and medium-sized enterprises.