From Crisis to Crisis: The Next Generation of Regional Aid Policy

Cite as: Michie, R and Wishlade, F (2022) From Crisis to Crisis: The Next Generation of Regional Aid Policy, EoRPA Report 22/3, EoRPA Regional Policy Research Consortium, European Policies Research Centre, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow and EPRC Delft

Over the course of the last year or so all EU Member States, Norway, Iceland and the UK have designed new regional aid maps and secured their approval under the 2022- 27 Regional Aid Guidelines (RAG). The adoption of the RAG and map approvals have taken place in a period of almost unprecedented upheaval, including the impact of COVID-19, the implications of UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the war in Ukraine and the energy supply crisis.

The guidelines were adopted too early to factor in either the COVID-19 crisis or the impact of the war in Ukraine. Nevertheless, flexibility in State aid discipline has been an important part of the Commission’s response, with the use of ‘temporary frameworks’ to allow comparatively generous levels of support, but for a limited time.

Against this backdrop, recent developments in regional aid control are reasonably straightforward, with only modest technical changes introduced by the 2021-27 RAG, involving more continuity than change.

For some countries, the process of drawing up a new regional aid map was wholly determined by the RAG, while for others, particularly those countries where coverage was reduced post-2021, the process was both technically challenging and politically sensitive. Many maps did not receive approval until well into 2022.

Beyond regional aid per se a number of wider developments either set regional aid policy in a wider context or indirectly influence the relevance or value of regional aid. The Commission’s recent scoreboard on State aid offers some important insights into the relative value of regional aid, especially set against the substantial sums allocated to COVID-19 support. In addition, the Commission has adopted or proposed changes in a number of relevant areas, including a new temporary framework in the context of the war on Ukraine, State aid guidelines for environmental protection and energy, a consultation on de minimis reviewing the threshold and transparency requirement, political agreement on the Foreign Subsidies Regulation and new rules for risk finance on SMEs.

This paper begins with a brief recap of the changes in spatial coverage introduced in the new regional guidelines, before setting out the area designation criteria. It goes on to provide a stocktake of progress on approval of the new maps in the EoRPA Member countries concerned by the guidelines, and offers brief review of other recent State aid developments.

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