LEGAL PRACTICE: STATE AID - ECONOMIC CONTINUITY - THE COMPETITORS EFFECTIVE PROTECTION

State aid and the principle of economic continuity: The consistency of the notion and the effective protection of the competitors and the buyers

This article examines the notion of economic continuity which, in the field of state aid, allows the Commission to determine that the obligation of recovery should be extended to the transferee of the initial beneficiary of the aid. To that end, the analysis of the question of procedure allows to note that the decisions on economic continuity are of two types : on the one hand, the decisions that are taken in the context of the examination of the compatibility of an aid and, on the other hand, those taken outside of this context. As far as this second type of decision is concerned, the Commission, following the Mory decision, can conclude that there is no economic continuity without having to open the formal investigation procedure, notwithstanding the fact that there were serious difficulties in making that determination. In this respect, it is argued that this case law deprives competitors of the possibility to submit observations and thus affects their interests. Finally, the author examines the applicability of this case law in the hypothetical scenario of a Commission decision concluding that there is economic continuity as well as its impact on the interests of transferees and competitors.

Introduction 1. L’objectif du présent article est d’examiner l’utilisation du principe de continuité économique dans le domaine des aides d’État. Il s’agit d’un principe du droit européen de la concurrence, d’origine jurisprudentielle, en application duquel la Commission européenne (“Commission”) peut être amenée à imposer au repreneur d’une entreprise le remboursement des “dettes de concurrence [1]” de cette dernière. 2. Ce principe a initialement été développé en matière d’antitrust [2] comme exception au principe de responsabilité personnelle selon lequel la responsabilité pour la commission d’une infraction aux règles de concurrence ne peut être imputée qu’à son auteur [3]. Au contraire, en vertu du critère de continuité économique, il est possible d’imputer une infraction, et par extension une amende pour

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  • Pappas and Associates (Brussels)

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Athos Pappas, State aid and the principle of economic continuity: The consistency of the notion and the effective protection of the competitors and the buyers, September 2017, Concurrences Review N° 3-2017, Art. N° 84416, www.concurrences.com

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