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15.5.3.  Sectoral aids in the EU

    The Commission's policy on sectoral aids involves examining whether the problems facing certain industries may justify the granting of State aid while ensuring that such aid does not unduly delay the necessary changes, does not distort competition to an extent counter to the common interest and is in line with the attainment of the Union's objectives, or at least will not hinder that goal.

    The symbiosis of national economies in the common market is reflected by very similar economic developments in the Member States, even though their economic structures are not homogeneous. The difficulties justifying intervention by a Member State are often to be found in some or all of its partners. A "European framework" encompassing national measures may therefore be elaborated when the conditions in a sector so dictate. Such a framework should include guidelines for the objectives to be attained at European level and a description of how to achieve that. Such frameworks exist for State aid to: the coal industry [Regulation 2010/787, see section 19.2.2]; the steel sector [Communication 2002/C 70/05]; maritime transport [Community guidelines]; shipbuilding [Framework and Communication 2008/C 173/03]; postal services [Notice 98/C 39/02]; public service broadcasting [Communication 2009/C 257/01]; cinematographic and other audiovisual works [Communication 2009/C 31/01]; and the rapid deployment of broadband networks [Communication 2009/C 235/04].

    In February 2002 the Commission considered that several specific sectoral frameworks should be integrated into a multisectoral framework. It has therefore approved the recasting of the rules applicable to regional aid to large investment projects, including in steel, the motor vehicle and synthetic fibres sectors [Communication from the Commission, see section 12.2.1]. Under this framework no advance notification of aid below certain thresholds for large investment projects is required, provided that aid is granted in accordance with a regional aid scheme approved by the Commission. The framework is aimed at setting up a quicker, simpler and more transparent system of controlling public authority support for major investment projects in the European Union. The new system enhances Member States' responsibility as regards implementation of the State aid rules and guarantees proper control of State aid levels in an enlarged and more heterogeneous Union.

    Due to the heavy impact of the global financial crisis on EU financial institutions, the Commission considers that Article 87(3) of the TEC (Article 107 § 3 of the TFEU), i.e. aid "to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State", is available as a legal basis for aid measures undertaken to address this systemic crisis [Communication 2008/C 270/02]. This means that State aid to the banking sector during the crisis years is considered favourably by the Commission. This applies, in particular, to aid that is granted by way of a general scheme available to several or all financial institutions in a Member State. The Commission has also clarified its position on recapitalisation of financial institutions in the current financial crisis and particularly on the limitation of aid to the minimum necessary and on safeguards against undue distortions of competition [Communication 2009/C10.03].

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