The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant economic disruption, as a consequence of the prolonged and re-occurring shutdowns and the ongoing political and economic uncertainties.
We reported in our March 2020 EU Competition Law Newsletter, April 2020 EU Competition Law Newsletter, and May 2020 EU Competition Law Newsletter about updates on the European level. Since May 2020, the following developments are noteworthy:
- Antitrust and mergers. Changes to the antitrust and merger regimes have not been as substantial as to the State aid rules (see below). The most important changes have been outlined in our previous newsletters. The Commission announced after its summer break that it plans to update the rules for mergers and State aid regimes in line with its new industrial strategy “at a time when the global competitive landscape is fundamentally changing.”
- State aid and coronavirus. In July 2020, the Commission decided to prolong the amended State aid rules, which would otherwise expire by the end of this In view of this, the Commission adopted new targeted adjustments to combat the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, including a Regulation amending the General Block Exemption Regulation and the de minimis Regulation, and a Communication which amends seven blocks of State aid guidelines.
The Commission has also amended the Temporary Framework (the “Framework”) in July 2020, for the third time, to further extend the scope of the Framework. The main purpose of the amended Framework is to support micro and small companies. Commissioner Vestager stated in this regard that the Framework “introduce[s] conditions that provide incentives for private investors to participate alongside the State in recapitalizations.” Furthermore, the Framework aims to facilitate research and development, to protect employment, and to expand the production of Coronavirus-related products.
By the end of September 2020, almost 300 State aid measures were approved by the Commission under Articles 107(2)b, 107(3)b and 107(3)c TFEU and under the State Aid Temporary Framework. An overview of the measures is available here.
Not only has the Commission taken measures, but also national competition agencies and other enforcers globally. These developments are monitored in our COVID-19 Resource Center. A regularly updated status overview of measures per antitrust agency is provided here.
|Antitrust & mergers|
|DG Competition page on antitrust rules and coronavirus||Link|
|DG Competition page on merger rules and coronavirus, including some practical information regarding merger notifications||Link|
|DG Competition page with detailed practical information concerning merger notifications||Link|
|DG Competition page on State aid rules and coronavirus||Link|
|Comprehensive overview of State aid decisions approved under Articles 107(2)b, 107(3)b and 107(3)c TFEU and under the State Aid Temporary Framework||Link|
|Overview of the State aid rules and public service obligation rules applicable to the air transport sector during the COVID-19 outbreak||Link|
Targeted adjustments on State aid rules to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak (July 2020):
Communication from the Commission concerning:
Temporary Framework to support the economy in the context of the coronavirus outbreak:
An overview can be accessed here
Link to the Commission Communication: here
Link to the Commission Regulation: here
|Temporary Framework to support the economy in the context of the coronavirus outbreak:
 See Speech by Commissioner Vestager, delivered at IBA 24th Annual Competition Conference, available at https://ec.europa.eu/commission/ commissioners/2019-2024/vestager/announcements/future-eu-merger-control_en. See also our separate report in this newsletter.
 Commission Regulation (EU) No. 2020/972 amending Regulation (EU) No. 1407/2013 as regards its prolongation and amending Regulation (EU) No. 651/2014 as regards its prolongation and relevant adjustments, OJ L 2015/3 (“Regulation amending the General Block Exemption Regulation and the de minimis Regulation”).
 Commission Communication concerning the prolongation and the amendments of the Guidelines on Regional State Aid for 2014–2020, Guidelines on State Aid to Promote Risk Finance Investments, Guidelines on State Aid for Environmental Protection and Energy 2014–2020, Guidelines on State aid for rescuing and restructuring non-financial undertakings in difficulty, Communication on the Criteria for the Analysis of the Compatibility with the Internal Market of State Aid to Promote the Execution of Important Projects of Common European Interest, Communication from the Commission – Framework for State aid for research and development and innovation, and Communication from the Commission to the Member States on the application of Articles 107 and 108 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to short-term export credit insurance, OJ C 224/22.
 Commission Communication concerning the third amendment to the Temporary Framework for State aid measures to support the economy in the current COVID-19 outbreak, OJ C 218/3.
 The first amendment of April 2020 increased the possibilities for public support to research, testing and production of products that are relevant to counter the coronavirus, to protect jobs and support the economy. The second amendment of May 2020 extended the scope of the Temporary Framework to recapitalization and subordinated debt measures.