After the introduction and the thanks expressed by Mr. Nicolas Charbit (Concurrences), Mr. Michel Debroux (DS Avocats) introduced the speakers and the subject of the seminar, which comes at a particularly opportune moment: the reform of the State aid regime is both recent enough to require some further explanation, and already sufficiently implemented to allow some lessons to be learned.
The reasons, ambitions and tools for intelligent and effective reform (Me Debroux)
Mr Debroux recalls the reasons for the reform undertaken by the Commission as from 2012, resulting from a twofold observation. Firstly, the Commission has had to deal with a considerable increase in the number of State aid cases since the early 2000s, which has been further aggravated by the crisis of 2008-2010. Thus, in 2012, state aid cases accounted for 62% of total competition cases. The services of DG Competition were thus mobilised on cases whose interest and stakes did not always seem obvious. Secondly, the regulatory framework has gradually proved to be too dense and complex due to the accumulation of texts of various kinds (frameworks, guidelines, regulations, communications, etc.) which are not always consistent with each other and are often deemed to be ill-suited to the practice of Member States, especially after the peak of the financial crisis in 2008, which showed the importance of State intervention. Finally, in its Leipzig-Halle judgment of 19 December 2012, the Court of Justice of the Union ruled that the construction of an infrastructure intrinsically linked to the exercise of the economic activity that will result (here, a runway at a regional airport) was an economic activity and not a State prerogative. This judgment has widened the scope of infrastructure investments subject to State aid control.