On November 9, 2023, Advocate General Pitruzzella delivered his Opinion,[1] proposing that the Court of Justice uphold the appeal brought by the European Commission (“Commission”)[2] against the General Court judgment of July 15, 2020,[3] which annulled the Commission decision of August 30, 2016, finding that the Republic of Ireland (“Ireland”) had granted €13 billion in undue tax benefits to Apple Inc (“Apple”).[4]  The Commission had found that Ireland granted a selective advantage to Apple through two individual tax decisions (“tax rulings”[5]) adopted in 1991 and 2007, addressed to the Irish-based subsidiaries, Apple Sales International (“ASI”), and Apple Operations Europe (“AOE”) (together, “the Irish branches”).  As AG Pitruzzella pointed out, this case is part of a “series of somewhat extensive cases concerning the application of Article 107(1) TFEU to tax rulings.”[6]

On November 8, 2023, the Japan Fair Trade Commission (“JFTC”) held the G7 Joint Competition Enforcers and Policy Makers Summit (the “Summit”) in Tokyo.  The focus of the Summit was for the G7 competition authorities and policymakers (the “Authorities”) to discuss effective approaches to enforcing and promoting competition in digital markets.  At the Summit, the Authorities adopted the “Digital Competition Communiqué[1] (the “Communiqué”) and updated the “Compendium of approaches to improving competition in digital markets”[2] (the “Compendium”). 

On June 8, 2023, Advocate General Kokott delivered her opinion on the Commission’s appeal of the General Court’s judgment annulling the Commission’s decision finding that Luxembourg had granted unauthorized State aid to Amazon in the form of a tax advantage. [1]  Advocate General  Kokott’s opinion endorsed the recent Court of Justice’s findings in Fiat,[2] which confirmed that there is no EU-wide arm’s length principle that the Commission can use as a standard of review for Member States’ tax decisions under EU State aid rules.  This opinion signals that the Fiat judgement will likely be the guide for ongoing and future tax ruling cases and investigations. 

On June 1, 2023, the Commission published revised Research & Development and Specialization Block Exemption Regulations (“R&D BER” and “Specialization BER”, together the “HBERs”)[1] , as well as revised Guidelines on Horizontal Cooperation (“Horizontal Guidelines”).[2]  The new HBERs exempt certain agreements from the prohibition of Article 101(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (“TFEU”), subject to specific conditions, and accordingly create a so-called “safe harbor” for certain forms of horizontal cooperation.  Relatedly, the Horizontal Guidelines aim to guide undertakings in the interpretation and application of the revised HBERs, and thereby in their assessment of “various common types of horizontal cooperation agreements.”[3]