National recovery and resilience plans in the EU member states include, among other items, measures aimed at active contribution to the EU’s guidelines on implementation of the European “green deal”. Measures to eliminate dependence on Russian fossil fuels and facilitate the “green transition”, as set out in the REPowerEU Plan, shall be however in line with EU State aid rules.
The European Commission constantly assesses measures entailing the EU State aid rules contained in the national recovery plans presented in the context of the European recovery facility (so-called RRF) as a matter of priority.
Besides, the Commission provides guidance and targeted support to the member states in the national plans’ preparatory works in order to facilitate the rapid deployment of the recovery-resilience priorities.
At the same time, the Commission makes sure in its recommendations to the member states that the applicable EU State aid rules shall be complied with, in order to preserve the level playing field in the Single Market and ensure that the EU-wide RRF funds are used in a way that minimises competition distortions and do not complicate the process of private investment.
Thus, all investments and reforms entailing the EU State aid which are included in the national recovery-resilience plans presented in the context of the RRF must be notified to the Commission for prior approval, unless covered by one of the State aid block-exemption rules.
In December 2020, the Commission published several EU State aid guiding rules (called “templates”) providing sector-specific guidance that included the following three main application requirements:
= when the State aid rules may be excluded, and therefore prior notification to the Commission is not necessary;
= when the State aid rules would be involved, but no notification is necessary because it falls under a block exemption; and
= when the State aid rules would be involved and a notification is necessary.
The Commission stated that the guiding templates can and will be updated in time and whenever appropriate.
In February 2023, the European Parliament and the Council formally approved the amended RRF Regulation to include REPowerEU chapters in the national RRPs. The RRF Regulation was amended to integrate dedicated REPowerEU chapters in the EU member states’ existing RRPs. In order to ensure a swift roll-out of the REPowerEU measures, the Commission encourages the member states to submit within a month their modified RRPs.
Then, in March 2023, in line with the EU guidance on national RRPs and in the context of REPowerEU plan, the Commission invited the member states to submit their modified plans with additional REPowerEU chapters by the end of April 2023.
It has to be remembered that the mentioned European Recovery and Resilience Facility, RRF is the key instrument at the heart of the €800 billion continental NextGenerationEU recovery plan. The RRF supports coordinated planning and financing of cross-border and national infrastructure, as well as energy projects and reforms, to mitigate the economic and social implications during post-pandemic period, as well as fast-forwarding the green and digital transitions and increase the Union member states’ overall recovery and resilience.
Adequate measures in RRPs
The Commission suggests the following “guiding directions” in the member states’ RRPs to be included in implementation and accountancy:
For example in the “power up” mode, the following national efforts shall be stream-lined: = energy and hydrogen infrastructures; = energy from renewable sources, including renewably-sourced hydrogen production, as well as investment/operating aid for the reduction and removal of greenhouse gas emissions including through support for renewable energy and energy efficiency.
In the “renovating mode”, the following sectors shall be active: = district heating and/or cooling, generation and distribution infrastructures; and =energy efficiency in buildings.
In the “recharge and refuel mode”, the following directions shall be prioritized: electric recharging stations and hydrogen stations for road vehicles; = acquisition of zero and low-emission road vehicles; and = various low emission transport modes.
Finally, in the “scale-up mode”, there are two priorities: = innovative processors and semiconductor technologies; and = cloud capabilities.
Reference to the Commission’s press release (4 April 2023) at: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_23_2090