European Commission approves €30 million Italian scheme to support SMEs in the agriculture and fishery sectors affected by coronavirus outbreak

The European Commission has approved a €30 million Italian scheme to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the agricultural and fishery sectors in the context of the coronavirus outbreak.The scheme was approved under the State aid Temporary Framework adopted by the Commission on 19 March 2020, as amended on 3 April 2020.

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “This €30 million Italian scheme will enable the provision of zero-interest rate loans of up to €30,000 per company for SMEs active in the agricultural and fishery sectors in Italy. The measure will help companies cover their immediate liquidity needs and continue their crucial activities in the food chain during these difficult times. We continue to work in close cooperation with Member States to find workable solutions to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, in line with EU rules.”

The Italian support measure

Italy notified to the Commission under the amended Temporary Framework a measure, with an estimated budget of €30 million, to support SMEs active in the agricultural and fishery sectors affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme, which will be open to SMEs active in these sectors aims at enabling those companies to have access to the financial means they need to cover their immediate working capital needs, thus helping them to continue their activities.

Under the scheme, support will be granted in the form of zero-interest rate loans by the State-owned Service Institute for the Agricultural and Food Market (ISMEA).

The Commission found that the Italian scheme is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, the amount of the zero-interest rate loan per company will not exceed €30,000 and the loan agreements will be signed no later than on 31 December 2020.

The Commission concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework.

On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under EU State aid rules.

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