State aid: Commission greenlights aid for Czech orchards and irrigation and opens in-depth investigations into Czech measures in favour of large agricultural companies
Yesterday, the European Commission made, under EU State aid rules, several decisions concerning the Czech Republic, namely (i) to approve two Czech support schemes for the restructuring of orchards and irrigation, while opening an in-depth investigation on aid granted to certain large enterprises active in the agricultural sector in the past, and (ii) to open an in-depth investigation on past and planned aid to certain large enterprises to support crop and livestock insurance in the agricultural sector.
The approved aid schemes for the restructuring of orchards and irrigation will be granted in the form of investment aid to undertakings active in the agricultural sector irrespective of their size. These aid schemes, with an overall budget of 52.4 and 21 million euros respectively, were found to be in line with the 2014 Agricultural State aid Guidelines. However, while assessing these measures the Commission found that aid had been granted in the past by Czech authorities to large undertakings which were erroneously qualified as small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which are defined in Annex I to Commission Regulation 702/2014. Therefore, the Commission will now investigate to determine whether such past aid was granted in breach of the Agricultural State aid Guidelines.
In parallel, the Commission assessed Czech plans to grant 25,8 million euros of public support for crop and livestock insurance premium for large enterprises and found that this kind of aid was already granted in the past to beneficiaries that had been erroneously qualified by the Czech granting authorities as SMEs, which were in fact large enterprises (which, again, would breach the Agricultural State aid Guidelines). The Commission therefore decided to open an in-depth investigation to determine whether its initial concerns are confirmed.
The case numbers are SA.50787, SA.50837, and SA. SA.51501.
For more information, read the Commission’s press release.