State aid: Commission approves €19 million Spanish scheme for supporting professional operators investing in protection facilities against vector insects

The European Commission has found that a €19 million Spanish scheme made available through the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) for supporting professional operators investing in protection facilities against vector insects is in line with EU State aid rules. The notified scheme will be funded via the RRF, following the Commission’s positive assessment of the Spanish recovery and resilience plan and its adoption by Council. Its aim is to finance investments of a preventive nature in the field of plant health, to prevent vector insects from entering the production nurseries of the various types of reproductive plant material (RPM). The RPM can be affected by, among others, the following quarantine pests: Xylella fastidiosa, Bursaphelenchus xilophilus, HLB or greening citrus fruit and vine flavescence dorée. The beneficiaries will be primary producers. Under the scheme, the public support will take the form of direct grants. The scheme will run until 31 December 2023. The scheme has been assessed based on its compliance with the EU Guidelines for State aid in the agricultural and forestry sectors and in rural areas, which ensure viable food production and to promote the efficient and sustainable use of resources in order to achieve intelligent and sustainable growth. The Commission has concluded that the aid facilitates the development of an economic activity and does not adversely affect trading conditions to an extent contrary to the common interest. Therefore the Commission has found that the scheme is in line with EU State aid rules. All investments and reforms entailing State aid contained in the national recovery plans presented in the context of the RRF must be notified to the Commission for prior approval, unless covered by one of the State aid block-exemption rules, in particular the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER) and, in the agricultural sector, the specific Agricultural Block Exemption Regulation (ABER). The Commission will assess such measures as a matter of priority and has provided guidance and support to Member States in the preparatory phases of the national plans, to facilitate the rapid deployment of the RRF. At the same time, the Commission makes sure in its decision that the applicable State aid rules are complied with, in order to preserve the level playing field in the Single Market and ensure that the RRF funds are used in a way that minimises competition distortions and do not crowd out private investment. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.63699 in the State aid register on the Commission’s competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.