With many Interreg programmes opening up for developing more tangible, potentially marketable products and involving enterprises in projects, State aid has become more important. The reason why: if Programme co-financing distorts fair market conditions, the partner who received it may have to reimburse the European Commission. National ministries, managing authorities and funding advisors dealing with Interreg are working hard to provide administrative tools and information to applicants.
“If we as Programmes fail to set up legally sound procedures now, it’s the applicants who will have to pay the price later on”, says Dana Hennings of Interreg Baltic Sea Region’s Managing Authority/ Joint Secretariat. As a Finance Officer, Dana Hennings presented the Programme’s State aid approach to a group of 40 Interreg experts during a workshop on 10 September in Berlin.
In Interreg Baltic Sea Region two State aid instruments will be applied, de minimis and the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER). Whereas de minimis allows granting State aid up to EUR 200,000 to individual institutions in a three-year period, the General Block Exemption Regulation provides options for granting higher amounts of State aid to specific types of activities and target groups.
To date the Programme has registered three General Block Exemption schemes (SME aid scheme, research and development and innovation aid scheme, training aid scheme) at the European Commission. These schemes set the legal framework for application of the General Block Exemption Regulation in the Programme. They are applied by the Programme on a case-by-case basis to individual project partners and allow co-financing of State aid relevant activities with rates between 15% and 85%.
„Interreg Baltic Sea Region’s Managing Authority is a model for others, indeed. The presentation about State aid was excellent, helpful and informative”, said Monitoring Committee member Henry Witusch, who organised the workshop on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.
Katrin Stockhammer of the INTERACT point in Vienna added the cross-European perspective: Most other Interreg Programmes (90%) plan to apply the de minimis Regulation, and about 35 % intend to cover State aid relevant activities by the General Block Exemption Regulation. Yet, as already outlined above, they differ in detail. Therefore, applicants should inform themselves at an early stage if State aid may be as issue in their projects.
You can read more details about the State aid rules applied in Interreg Baltic Sea Region in the State Aid section.