Gert Jan Koopman has said state aid control will not take a backseat in the banking sector, despite predicting last year that it would no longer be an enforcement priority. Malina McLennan at GCR Live in Brussels
“My own prediction [at last year’s GCR Live State Aid conference] that state aid control in banking will take a backseat was wrong,” Koopman told GCR Live 2nd Annual State Aid today.
Highlighting that the agency’s state aid arm spent more than half its time on banking cases in early 2017, Koopman said: “The financial crisis may be statistically over for a long time, but it has still left its traces at DG Comp.”
The enforcer can deal with banks facing financial difficulties that may receive state bailouts by allowing them to fail; agreeing to proportional recapitalisation; or agreeing to a member state-led resolution, where authorities temporarily maintain banks’ critical operations while allowing other parts of them to proceed into normal insolvency.
Koopman also named energy and tax as the other two main focus areas of the agency’s state aid enforcement agenda for the coming year. Addressing the European authority’s upcoming plans in more general terms, the official said his main message was one of stability, and that major changes should not be expected.
Koopman acknowledged calls from EU member states to give them more time to work with the new regime put in place by the 2014 extension of the state aid block exemption regulation, and not to start any large-scale reform in the near future. He said the European Commission has “taken this very important message to heart”.
Koopman said his agency has primarily focused its modernisation efforts of existing state aid rules by strengthening its cooperation with national authorities, helping to speed up the granting of legitimate aid and prioritising resource allocation.
The conference concluded today.