The European Commission has approved under EU State aid rules Belgium’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.
Belgium’s regional map defines the Belgian 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 25.83% of the population of Belgium will be eligible for regional investment aid:
The region of the Luxembourg Province (BE) is among the most disadvantaged regions in the EU, with a GDP per capita below 75% of EU average. It is eligible for aid under Article 107(3)(a) TFEU (so-called ‘a’ area), with a maximum aid intensity for large enterprises of 30%.
In order to address regional disparities, Belgium has designated as so-called non-predefined ‘c’ areas parts of the Région de Bruxelles-Capitale/Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest, of the Limburg Province (BE), of the Oost-Vlaanderen Province, of the West-Vlaanderen Province, of the Brabant Wallon Province, of the Hainaut Province, of the Liège Province and of the Namur Province. In these areas, the maximum aid intensities for large enterprises vary between 10% and 15%, depending on their GDP per capita and unemployment rate.
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.
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.