State aid: Commission adopts new rules for agriculture, forestry and fishery and aquaculture sectors

The European Commission has adopted today an amendment of the so-called ‘de minimis’ regulation for the fishery and aquaculture sector (‘Fishery de minimis Regulation‘). The revised regulation, which exempts small aid amounts from State aid control since they are deemed to have no impact on competition and trade in the Single Market, will enter into force 20 days after its publication in the Official Journal.

In December 2022, the Commission prolonged the validity of the Fishery de minimis Regulation by one year (i.e. until 31 December 2023) to finalise an ongoing reflection as to whether the processing and marketing of fishery and aquaculture products should no longer be included in the Fishery de minimis Regulation but rather fall under the General de minimis Regulation. The General de minimis Regulation provides for a higher aid ceiling than the Fishery one.

The amendment to the Fishery de minimis Regulation adopted today includes the following changes: (i) the increase in the de minimis aid ceiling per company over three years, from €30,000 to €40,000, subject to the establishment of a central national register; (ii) only the primary production of fishery and aquaculture products will remain covered by the Fishery de minimis Regulation, whereas the processing and marketing of such products will be covered by the General de minimis Regulation; (iii) the recalculation of the so-called ‘national caps’; (iv) certain operations excluded from the scope of the Fishery de minimis Regulation will exceptionally be allowed for the EU’s outermost regions; and (v) the extension of the validity of the revised Fishery de minimis Regulation until 31 December 2029.

Commissioner Didier Reynders, in charge of competition policy, said: “The revised State aid rules will reduce the burden for national administrations and facilitate access to small amounts of aid. In addition, companies active in the processing of fishery products will, from now on, benefit from the same rules on small aid amounts applicable to processors in other sectors, which will contribute to the level playing field across sectors.