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What are the rules?

State aid rules are contained in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (previously referred to as the Treaty of Rome). The State aid rules prohibit the use of state resources, or any public support with an economic value, which given selectively has the capacity to distort trade by favouring certain undertakings, or the production of certain goods, and which has the potential to affect trade between Member States. Where aid is present it must not be granted unless it has been specifically approved in advance by the European Commission or benefits from a general exemption to the rules.

In general, the rules apply to all State actions which might assist businesses including:

  • Grants
  • “Soft” loans
  • Selling to business at an undervalue
  • Buying from business at an overvalue