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State Aid

State Aid Scoreboard: EFTA States increase state aid spending



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Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway all increased their state aid expenditure in 2016, reflecting increased focus on environment objectives and research, development and innovation.

These are the main findings in the State Aid Scoreboard published by the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) today. The Scoreboard comprises aid expenditure in the three EFTA States up until 1 January 2017.

Overall, the three EFTA States spent nearly EUR 2.9 billion on state aid in 2016, a nominal increase of some 6 percent or EUR 153 million compared to 2015. Relative to GDP, Norway is the only EFTA State whose aid expenditure is above the average EU level, whereas spending in Iceland and Liechtenstein are both well below the average.

Page-2In 2016, Norway spent EUR 2.8 billion on state aid and increased its overall spending by 9 percent. This growth was mainly due to an increase in aid for environmental and energy saving purposes.

Iceland spent EUR 77 million on state aid in 2016 and increased its overall spending by 18 percent. The rise in aid expenditure was primarily due to an increase in aid for research, development and innovation.

Although Liechtenstein increased its overall state aid spending in 2016 by 1.4 percent to EUR 1.82 million, the country's aid expenditure relative to GDP remained the lowest of all of the EEA States.

There are three main conclusions across the three EFTA States:

  • The EFTA States have increased their aid expenditure.
  • The expenditure reflects national policy objectives such as green development and innovation, which are also common objectives in the EEA as a whole.
  • The use of the new general block exemption regulation (GBER) is on the rise. In 2016, 95% of all measures for which expenditure had been reported for the first time were GBER measures.




State aid is public support to commercial activities. It can take the form of cash grants, tax breaks and favourable loans, guarantees or investments not based on market terms.

The EEA Agreement prohibits state aid to ensure a level playing field for companies across Europe, and to prevent government funds from being used as a form of protectionism. ESA enforces the general prohibition on state aid, and is the only authority entitled to grant exemptions for the EFTA States. These exemptions are available as state aid can sometimes be necessary to promote common objectives, such as green economy and innovation, to correct market failure or to ensure the provision of services of general interest. ESA's guidelines and decision-making practice facilitates this kind of aid – whilst ensuring that public funds are spent efficiently and without distorting the playing field for economic operators. As a rule, EFTA States must notify all aid measures to ESA for prior approval, unless the aid can be block exempted.

The Scoreboard, published annually, is a benchmarking tool for measuring trends in state aid expenditure by the EFTA States as well as across the EEA more generally.

The Scoreboard can be found here.

For further information, please contact:

Ms. Anne Vestbakke
Head of Communications
tel. +32 2 286 18 66
mob. +32 490 57 63 53


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