State aid: Commission approves €520 million Italian scheme to compensate the trade fairs and congress sector for damages suffered due to the coronavirus outbreak
The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, a €520 million Italian scheme to compensate companies active in the trade fairs and congress sector and their service providers for the damages suffered due to the restrictive measures introduced by the Italian government to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, yesterday said:
“The measures that the Italian government had to take to limit the spread of the coronavirus pandemic required trade fairs and congress operators to stop their activities, resulting in considerable losses for them as well as for their service providers. This €520 million scheme will enable Italy to compensate these companies for the damage suffered. We continue working in close cooperation with Member States to find workable solutions to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, in line with EU rules.”
The Italian support measure
Italy notified to the Commission, under Article 107(2)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), an aid scheme aimed at compensating companies active in the trade fairs and congress sector and their service providers for the damages suffered due the restrictive measures introduced by the Italian government to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Under the scheme, eligible beneficiaries will be entitled to compensation in the form of direct grants for part of the damages incurred between 9 March and 14 June 2020 and between 24 October 2020 and 14 June 2021, periods during which, under the restrictive measures in place, the organisation of such events was not allowed.
The Italian authorities will verify that no overcompensation will occur by setting the damage based on the net losses incurred by each beneficiary because of the pandemic, ensuring that no individual beneficiary receives more in compensation than it suffered as damage and that any payment in excess of the actual damage is recovered.
The Commission assessed the scheme under Article 107(2)(b) TFEU, which enables the Commission to approve State aid measures granted by Member States to compensate specific companies or sectors (in the form of schemes) for damage directly caused by exceptional occurrences.
The Commission considers that the coronavirus outbreak qualifies as such an exceptional occurrence, as it is an extraordinary, unforeseeable event having a significant economic impact. As a result, exceptional interventions by the Member States to compensate for the damages directly linked to the outbreak are justified.
The Commission found that the Italian measure will compensate damage directly linked to the coronavirus outbreak. It also found that the measure is proportionate, as the envisaged compensation does not exceed what is necessary to make good the damage.
The Commission therefore concluded that the measure is in line with EU State aid rules.
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