Blümel: The Commission is lacking problem awareness
Austria renews call for temporary abolition and flexibilisation of state aid law – Enable fast and targeted aid for Austrian companies
“The reaction of the EU Commission today shows that those responsible in Brussels still do not understand the problem. The current phase is about saving companies and jobs in Austria and Europe, not about a competition in bureaucracy. We want to be able to support our companies now quickly and purposefully with Austrian tax money. We do not know what measures may be needed in the further course of the crisis, hence we should allow for far-reaching exceptions for the time of the crisis,” said Finance Minister Gernot Blümel on today’s reaction of the EU Commission to the Austrian demand for a temporary suspension of the state aid rules, e.g. as long as the EU short-time working model SURE is in force.
In a letter to Vice-President of the Commission Margreth Vestager, the Finance Minister and the Minister of Economic Affairs have called for reduction of the administrative burden so that Austrian companies can be helped as quickly as possible. For example, there should be an ex post reporting obligation for corona aid measures for the duration of the crisis management, as is the case with state aids in case of natural disasters, and Austria moreover calls for an immediate increase in the upper limit for direct contributions to SMEs. States should be given the option of suspending the guarantee fee, obligatory up to now, when state guarantees are invoked, and additional aid for industries particularly affected by the crisis should be permitted.
Another point of criticism from Austria concerns the EU definition of a “healthy enterprise,” which is a prerequisite for receiving state aid. The current definition under state aid law goes further than the Austrian national definition. “Thus, the current EU rules prevent us from saving healthy Austrian companies and jobs. This is absurd and weakens Europe as a business location. That cannot be the goal. Not every rule that has existed for ages proves its worth in times of crisis as well. At the European level, there was and is a great deal of flexibility and generous interpretations of existing regulations during the crisis. To demand on the one hand solidarity of the Austrian taxpayers with countries such as Italy and France and in return to block aid for domestic companies with Austrian tax money, that is not acceptable,” Blümel concluded.