On December 5, 2023, the CJEU overturned the judgment of the General Court,[1] which upheld the Commission decision of June 20, 2018 finding that Luxembourg had granted unlawful State aid of €120 million to Engie.[2] 

On November 23, 2023, the Court of Justice (“ECJ”) delivered two important judgments in the Ryanair v. Commission cases concerning Ryanair’s challenge of two State aid schemes granted by France and Sweden to airlines holding “national operating licenses”[1] during the COVID-19 pandemic.[2]  

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 May 10, 2023, the General Court annulled two Commission decisions authorizing a total of EUR 7 billion recapitalization aid granted during the COVID-19 pandemic to air carriers Lufthansa and Scandinavian Airlines (“SAS”), following a challenge brought by rival airlines Ryanair and (for the Lufthansa decision) Condor:[1] i.e., (i) EUR 6 billion from Germany to Lufthansa[2] and (ii) EUR 1 billion from Denmark and Sweden to SAS.[3]  The judgments mark the first time the General Court has annulled Commission decisions clearing recapitalization measures adopted under Section 3.11 of the COVID-19 Temporary Framework (“TF”), and the largest amount of previously cleared aid covered by an annulment judgment.[4]

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 August 30, 2022, the Federal Cartel Office (“FCO”) published its Annual Report 2021/2022.[1]  Andreas Mundt, the President of the FCO, pointed out two areas of the FCO’s focus: First,  the collusion of undertakings under the guise of inflation and Russia’s war against Ukraine.  Second, to use the flexibility of antitrust law to allow for a degree of cooperation that is necessary in times of crisis.  Moreover, the FCO continues to pursue its digital agenda for the digital economy and the protection of consumer rights. 

Last year we noted that U.S. antitrust enforcement was in a period of nearly unprecedented public attention and policy debate, and also that the Biden Administration seemed likely to launch significant new policy initiatives as the year progressed. 

On November 8, 2022, the Court of Justice set aside the General Court’s judgment in the Fiat State aid case.[1] In doing so, the Court of Justice effectively annulled the Commission decision which found that the tax ruling granted to the Fiat Chrysler group by the tax authorities of Luxembourg was an unlawful tax break of €20–30 million.[2] The Court of Justice affirmed the supremacy of national law in corporate taxation and rejected the Commission’s attempt to develop an EU-wide arm’s length principle as a standard of review for Member States’ tax decisions under State aid rules. The judgment is a setback for the Commission’s policy of using State aid rules to target allegedly unfair tax deals for multinational companies.

On April 27, 2022, the European Commission (the “Commission”) approved a State aid scheme of €700 million of the French State “to support research, development and innovation projects by companies of all sizes and active across all sectors”[1] (the “French Scheme” or the “Scheme”). The French authorities estimate the number of beneficiaries of the scheme to range between 11 and 50 companies.[2] The scheme will be in place until December 31, 2023.