EC approves €800 mn public funding for textile sector
The European Commission has authorised, under the EC Treaty's rules on state aid, €800 million of public funding for a comprehensive support programme aimed at the Spanish textile and clothing sector.
The programme comprises measures for the promotion of technical research, reindustrialisation, innovation, export of Spanish products, specific training and for maintaining aged workers in their job. After an in-depth investigation, opened in November 2007, the Commission found the measures to be in line with the state aid rules, either under approved aid schemes, the exemption for small amounts of aid (see IP/06/1765) or Article 87(3)(c), that allows aid under certain conditions for the development of certain economic activities.
EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: “After an in-depth investigation, the Commission is satisfied that the Spanish textile programme does not unduly distort competition in the Single Market."
The Spanish textile programme was in force from June 2006 until 31 December 2008 and was not notified to the Commission.
It promoted technical research, the reindustrialization of areas affected by structural changes, loans granted by the Empresa Nacional de Inovación S.A. (ENISA) for the modernization of SMEs, preferential loans by ICO for innovation, collective participation in fairs and consultancy regarding the export potential, specific training and the maintenance of aged workers in their jobs.
The Commission opened in in-depth investigation on 13 November 2007, as it had doubts in particular regarding the possible cumulation of the different measures offered by the programme.
During the investigation, the Spanish authorities clarified the relations between the textile programme and existing aid schemes already approved by the Commission, the de minimis aid Regulation (see IP/06/1765), cumulation requirements and with EC Treaty rules allowing state aid to facilitate the development of certain economic activities (Article 87(3)(c)).
In particular, the Spanish authorities provided evidence that the de minimis threshold of maximum €200 000 aid over three years per company had been respected on an individual and cumulated basis. As regards the training measure, its intensity was well below the thresholds imposed by analogy by the EU Training Aid Regulation and General Block Exemption Regulation (see IP/08/1110 and MEMO/08/482).
Concerning the measure to maintain the employment of aged workers, it applied mainly to micro-enterprises and its impact on the market was very limited, in line with Commission Decision of 10 December 2008 authorising aid aimed at furthering the training and employment of aged workers in the Spanish footwear, tanning and leather sector (case N 244/2008). The Commission therefore concluded that the positive effects of the measure would outweigh any potential distortion of competition it might create.
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number C 52/2007 in the State Aid Register on the DG Competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.