The European Commission has approved a €2 billion Finnish loan and guarantee scheme to support small and medium enterprises (‘SMEs’) and large companies in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The scheme was approved under the State aid Temporary Crisis Framework, adopted by the Commission on 23 March 2022, based on Article 107(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (‘TFEU’), recognising that the EU economy is experiencing a serious disturbance.
Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Russia’s unjustified military aggression against Ukraine and the related sanctions are having a significant impact on the EU and the Finnish economy. This €2 billion scheme will enable Finland to support companies active in sectors affected by the current geopolitical crisis. We continue to stand with Ukraine and its people. At the same time, we continue working closely with Member States to ensure that national support measures can be put in place in a timely, coordinated and effective way, while protecting the level playing field in the Single Market.”
The Finnish measure
Finland notified to the Commission under the Temporary Crisis Framework a €2 billion scheme to provide liquidity support to SMEs as well as large companies in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
This follows a Finnish measure to support the agricultural sector that the Commission approved on 20 May 2022 (SA.102914) and another one to support companies active across sectors that the Commission approved on 13 June 2022 (SA.103159).
Under this measure, the aid will take the form of (i) loans with subsidised interest rates; and (ii) guarantees on loans granted by Finnvera Plc, the State-owned specialised financing company.
The measure will be open to companies active across sectors affected by the current geopolitical crisis, with the exception of (i) the primary production of agricultural products and forestry; (ii) construction businesses acting also as property developers; and (iii) financial institutions.
The Commission found that the Finnish scheme is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Crisis Framework. In particular, (i) the duration of the loans and guarantees will not exceed six years, (ii) the interest rates and guarantee premiums respect the minimum levels set out in the Temporary Crisis Framework; and (iii) the loans and guarantees will be granted no later than 31 December 2022.
The Commission concluded that the Finnish scheme is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Crisis Framework.
On this basis, the Commission approved the aid measure under EU State aid rules.
On 23 March 2022, the Commission adopted the State aid Temporary Crisis Framework to enable Member States to use the flexibility foreseen under State aid rules to support the economy in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Temporary Crisis Framework provides for the following types of aid, which can be granted by Member States:
- Limited amounts of aid, in any form, of up to €35,000 for companies affected by the crisis active in the agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture sectors and of up to €400,000 per company affected by the crisis active in all other sectors;
- Liquidity support in form of State guarantees and subsidised loans; and
- Aid to compensate for high energy prices. The aid, which can be granted in any form, will partially compensate companies, in particular intensive energy users, for additional costs due to exceptional gas and electricity price increases. The overall aid per beneficiary cannot exceed 30% of the eligible costs, up to a maximum of €2 million at any given point in time. When the company incurs operating losses, further aid may be necessary to ensure the continuation of an economic activity. Therefore, for energy-intensive users, the aid intensities are higher and Member States may grant aid exceeding these ceilings, up to €25 million, and for companies active in particularly affected sectors and sub-sectors up to €50 million.
Sanctioned Russian-controlled entities will be excluded from the scope of these measures.
The Temporary Crisis Framework includes a number of safeguards:
- Proportional methodology, requiring a link between the amount of aid that can be granted to businesses and the scale of their economic activity and exposure to the economic effects of the crisis;
- Eligibility conditions, for example defining energy intensive users as businesses for which the purchase of energy products amount to at least 3% of their production value; and
- Sustainability requirements. Member States are invited to consider, in a non-discriminatory way, setting up requirements related to environmental protection or security of supply when granting aid for additional costs due to exceptionally high gas and electricity prices.
The Temporary Crisis Framework will be in place until 31 December 2022. With a view to ensuring legal certainty, the Commission will assess before that date if it needs to be extended. Moreover, during its period of application, the Commission will keep the content and scope of the Framework under review in the light of developments regarding the energy markets, other input markets and the general economic situation.
The Temporary Crisis Framework complements the ample possibilities for Member States to design measures in line with existing EU State aid rules. For example, EU State aid rules enable Member States to help companies cope with liquidity shortages and needing urgent rescue aid. Furthermore, Article 107(2)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union enables Member States to compensate companies for the damage directly caused by an exceptional occurrence, such as those caused by the current crisis.
Furthermore, on 19 March 2020, the Commission adopted a Temporary Framework in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The COVID Temporary Framework was amended on 3 April, 8 May, 29 June, 13 October 2020, 28 January and 18 November 2021. As announced in May 2022, the COVID Temporary Framework has not been extended beyond the set expiry date of 30 June 2022, with some exceptions. In particular, investment and solvency support measures may still be put in place until 31 December 2022 and 31 December 2023 respectively, as already provided for under the existing rules. In addition, the COVID Temporary Framework already provides for a flexible transition, under clear safeguards, in particular for the conversion and restructuring options of debt instruments, such as loans and guarantees, into other forms of aid, such as direct grants, until 30 June 2023.
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.103386 in the State aid register on the Commission’s competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of State aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the Competition Weekly e-News.
More information on the Temporary Crisis Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine can be found here.