For Brussels, has the government got it all wrong on anti Covid aid?

For Brussels, has the government got it all wrong on anti Covid aid?

The government is adapting (bows?) To the limits imposed by Brussels on anti-Covid aid, while the other states partly ignore them. Giuseppe Liturri's analysis

800,000 euros. This figure could soon become the nightmare of any Italian company that has had the good fortune to receive various kinds of subsidies provided by the decree-laws that followed one another from March to the end of October (Cura Italia, Liquidity, Relaunch, August and Refreshments ). In fact, these decrees contain numerous measures defined by EU rules as State aid and which, consequently, as we will see below, are considered admissible but within the aforementioned limit. The result will be that many government-launched benefits will soon become unusable. If we add to this that the European confrontation sees us, as usual, penalized, the mockery is complete.

Why do we risk ending up in this bottleneck? Let's start with the definition of state aid: these are public aid measures that do not affect the whole economy and confer a selective advantage limited to certain sectors or types of enterprises, distorting or threatening to distort competition in the internal market. Which is a bit like the “Holy Grail” of the European construction. In order for the anti-crisis measures to overcome this prohibition, according to Article 107 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU , it must be demonstrated that: the aid is of general application and therefore outside the particular restrictive regime; or whether it is "aid intended to remedy the damage caused by natural disasters or other exceptional events" (paragraph 2 letter b) or that it is aid "intended to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy" of the Member State (paragraph 3 letter b). There is a fundamental difference between the first exemption cause and the second: the first aid is, by definition, compatible with the internal market, and therefore does not need prior approval by the Commission, unlike the second aid which "can "Be considered compatible with the internal market, only after notification and related approval. It looks like a distinction of goat wool but it is not, since it is on this difference that tens of billions of aids dance.

Let's not forget that, in 2015, a decision by the Commission considered an irrelevant recapitalization of Banca Tercas for 300 million state aid, triggering the resolution of 4 banks and an epochal crisis of Italian banks.

When on March 19, in the face of the disastrous economic consequences of the blocking of numerous production activities and services due to Covid, the Commission launched the Temporary Framework relating to state aid, it defined twelve facilitating measures for various nature, almost all attributable to the purpose of remedying a serious disturbance in the economy. The list is long: limited amount aid (direct grants, tax and payment concessions or other forms) aid in the form of state loan guarantees to ensure access to corporate liquidity, subsidized interest rates for public loans and bank guarantees and loans, short-term state export credit insurance, research and development and investment aid for the production of Covid-19 related products, aid in the form of tax deferral and / or social security contributions, aid in the form of grants for the payment of wages, aid for recapitalization in favor of companies, support for fixed costs not covered by companies. Most of the support measures adopted by our government have a legal basis in one of those twelve types of State aid considered eligible, have been notified in Brussels and, for each of them, there is a Commission decision certifying their compliance. to the Temporary Framework (TF). From March to the end of October, there are about 20 authorization decisions.

The problem for us is that most of them are either allowed within the old € 200,000 de minimis or within the new € 800,000 TF limit. Almost all of them have the terrible defect of "consuming" one of these two plafonds. Four examples to understand us: the non-repayable grant for businesses (art. 25 “Relaunch”) absorbs the “de minimis”; aid for the recapitalization of businesses (art. 26 "Relaunch"), the fund for integrated promotion on foreign markets (art. 72 "Cura Italia") and the reduction of 30% for the South (art. 27 of the Decree " August ") all absorb the € 800,000 TF limit.

With the result that companies have now started the obstacle course to avoid detachment and, above all, to avoid incurring criminal penalties, as well as the obligation to return the amounts illegally received. The penalty is likely to be triggered because, at the time of requesting the facilities, the companies present a self-certification certifying the availability of the ceiling which could subsequently turn out to be false if other requests for help not yet granted and, in the meantime, received, are pending.

The limit of our government's action lies precisely in the decision to have supinely and predominantly routed all the facilities along the path of the "remedy for a serious disturbance in the economy" rather than along that of "aid for exceptional events". In the latter case, the limit of € 800,000 does not apply.

On this point, the comparison with Germany, which already in May boasted the record in the EU of state aid to its companies (about 1,000 billion out of a total of 2,000, with Italy standing at 300) is pitiless. Regardless of the greater space offered by their public budget, the Germans pushed hard on the lever of the exceptional event: billions for airports, for regional public transport companies, for tour operators, for Lufthansa (6 billion against 199 million paid to Alitalia), even the charter company Condor received 550 million. All without ceiling.

We find ourselves instead the entrepreneurs forced to move with the pharmacist's sling bar for fear of exceeding the limit. Once again, the interests of the strongest prevail in Brussels and we are left with doubt: did we at least ask and they said no or did we not even want to disturb the driver?

(Article published in the newspaper La Verità )

This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL on Tue, 10 Nov 2020 14:40:16 +0000.