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PR(01)05: The EFTA Surveillance Authority adopts new guidelines on state aid for environmental protection

18.9.2002

The EFTA Surveillance Authority has adopted new guidelines outlining its position with respect to State aid for environmental protection, corresponding to similar guidelines previously adopted by the European Commission.[1]

The objective of the Authority’s Guidelines is inter alia to clarify the approach which the Authority will follow in assessing whether environmentally protective measures which constitute State aid could nevertheless be approved as compatible with the EEA Agreement. In other words, the Guidelines establish principles for assessing whether State aid measures will qualify for exemptions from the general State aid prohibition as laid down in Article 61 (1) of the EEA Agreement.

In this respect, the Guidelines refer to standards and harmonised tax levels within the European Community. The purpose of using such points of reference is to ensure the same application of the State aid rules throughout the EEA.

It is, however, emphasized that such references to Community legislation do not imply that the EFTA States are obliged to comply with Community legislation when such legislation has not been implemented in the EEA Agreement. They serve only as a basis for assessing the compatibility of aid measures with the functioning of the EEA Agreement.

In general, the Guidelines attempt to strike a balance between the need to improve the environment and the need to ensure that competition is not distorted and to avoid diverging application of the “polluter pays” principle.

Investment aid enabling firms to improve on Community environmental standards applicable, or grants to investments where no such standards exist, is on specific conditions allowed at a scale from 30% up to 100% of the eligible costs of the investment.

Operating aid may be granted on certain conditions to inter alia waste management and energy savings. Transitional reductions in environmental taxes to specific industries may be granted on certain conditions.

The Authority has by letters of 23 May proposed as appropriate measures to the EFTA States that existing schemes for environmental protection must be brought in conformity with the new guidelines by 1 January 2002.

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[1] The Commission Guidelines are published in OJ No C 37, 03.02.2001.




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