The European Commission has approved under EU State aid rules Spain’s map for granting regional aid from 1 January 2022 to 31 December 2027, within the framework of the revised Regional aid Guidelines (‘RAG’).
The revised RAG, adopted by the Commission on 19 April 2021 and in force since 1 January 2022, enable Member States to support the least favoured European regions in catching up and to reduce disparities in terms of economic well-being, income and unemployment – cohesion objectives that are at the heart of the Union. They also provide increased possibilities for Member States to support regions facing transition or structural challenges such as depopulation, to contribute fully to the green and digital transitions.
At the same time, the revised RAG maintain strong safeguards to prevent Member States from using public money to trigger the relocation of jobs from one EU Member State to another, which is essential for fair competition in the Single Market.
Spain’s regional aid map defines the Spanish regions eligible for regional investment aid. The map also establishes the maximum aid intensities in the eligible regions. The aid intensity is the maximum amount of State aid that can be granted per beneficiary, expressed as a percentage of eligible investment costs.
Under the revised RAG, regions covering 66.29% of the population of Spain will be eligible for regional investment aid:
- Outermost regions can be designated by Member States as eligible for aid under Article 107(3)(a) TFEU (so-called ‘a’ areas). In Spain, the outermost region of Canarias will continue to be eligible for aid as ‘a’ area. In this area, the maximum aid intensity for large enterprises will be 50%.
- The regions of Castilla-La Mancha, Extremadura, Andalucía, Ciudad de Ceuta and Ciudad de Melilla are among the most disadvantaged regions in the EU, with a GDP per capita below 75% of the EU average. These regions are also eligible for aid under Article 107(3)(a) TFEU, with a maximum aid intensity for large enterprises of 30%. Cuenca, within Castilla-La Mancha, also qualifies as a sparsely populated area, having fewer than 12.5 inhabitants per km2. In sparsely populated areas, Member States can use operating aid schemes to prevent or reduce depopulation.
- Región de Murcia no longer qualifies as an ‘a’ area in view of its positive economic development, but is now considered as a predefined region under the derogation of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU (so-called ‘c’ area), as with all regions that qualified as ‘a’ areas in the period until 2021 and no longer qualify as such in the current period. The maximum aid intensities for large enterprises in this area will vary between 15% and 20%, with the higher aid intensity applicable in the first half of the period.
- The regions of Teruel and Soria also qualify as predefined ‘c’ areas as they are sparsely populated areas, having fewer than 12.5 inhabitants per km2. The maximum aid intensity for large enterprises in these areas will be 20%.
- In order to address regional disparities, Spain has designated as so-called non-predefined ‘c’ areas the regions of Galicia, Principado de Asturias, Cantabria, La Rioja, Comunitat Valenciana, Illes Balears, Huesca, and part of Castilla y León, Zaragoza, Madrid, Cataluña, Comunidad Foral de Navarra and País Vasco. In these areas, the maximum aid intensity for large enterprises will be 15%. The Commission also approved an increase in the maximum aid intensity for large enterprises in two regions within Castilla y León: from 15% to 25% in Salamanca, so that the difference in aid intensity with the bordering ‘a’ area of Beiras e Serra da Estrela is limited to 15 percentage points, and from 15% to 20% in Zamora, due to its relatively high population loss over the past decade.
In all the above areas, the maximum aid intensities can be increased by 10 percentage points for investments made by medium-sized enterprises and by 20 percentage points for investments made by small enterprises, for their initial investments with eligible costs up to €50 million.
Once a future territorial Just Transition plan in the context of the Just Transition Fund Regulation will be in place, Spain has the possibility to notify the Commission an amendment to the regional aid map approved today, in order to apply a potential increase of the maximum aid intensity in the future Just Transition areas, as specified in the revised RAG for ‘a’ areas.
Europe has always been characterised by significant regional disparities in terms of economic well-being, income and unemployment. Regional aid aims to support economic development in disadvantaged areas of Europe, while ensuring a level playing field between Member States.
In the RAG, the Commission sets out the conditions under which regional aid may be considered to be compatible with the internal market and establishes the criteria for identifying the areas that fulfil the conditions of Article 107(3)(a) and (c) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (‘a’ and ‘c’ areas respectively). Annexes to the Guidelines identify the most disadvantaged regions, so-called ‘a’ areas, which include the outermost regions and regions whose GDP per capita is below or equal to 75% of the EU average, and the pre-defined ‘c’ areas, representing former ‘a’ areas and sparsely populated areas.
Member States can designate the so-called non-predefined ‘c’ areas, up to a maximum pre-defined ‘c’ coverage (for which figures are also available in Annexes I and II to the Guidelines) and in line with certain criteria. Member States need to notify their proposal for regional aid maps to the Commission for approval.