Business Irish

Wednesday 26 July 2017

EU state aid rules scrapped for ports, stadiums and regional airports

Munster in action against the New Zealand Maori All Blacks at Thomond Park in Limerick – stadiums such as this one will now be eligible for bigger state aid grants
Munster in action against the New Zealand Maori All Blacks at Thomond Park in Limerick – stadiums such as this one will now be eligible for bigger state aid grants

Sarah Collins in Brussels

The EU has eased state aid rules, clearing the way for governments to invest more into ports and small airports as well as cultural and sports arenas.

On Wednesday, EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager said governments can now back infrastructure upgrades in airports that carry fewer than three million passengers a year, which would cover all of Ireland's regional airports, though the main State airports in Shannon, Dublin and Cork are not affected.

Up to €150m can now be invested in ports without needing EU clearance.

Commissioner Vestager said the rules would save governments "time and trouble", while preserving competition.

"They also allow the Commission to focus attention on state aid measures that have the biggest impact on competition in the single market, to be "big on big things and small on small things" to the benefit of all European citizens", she said.

Commissioner Vestager's most famous state aid case is the €13bn she has ordered Ireland to collect from Apple for a claimed back-tax bill.

Under the new EU rules, the Government can inject up to €2m into projects such as sports arenas, libraries, theatres and heritage foundations without triggering state aid conditions, or needing EU sign off.

However, spending would still have to comply with EU debt rules brought in after the crash, the so-called fiscal compact, which Finance Minister Michael Noonan has said hampers investment. The Government here has been scaling back state support for regional airports in Donegal, Ireland Knock, Kerry and Waterford airports, and planned to phase out state support by 2024.

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