Commission approves umbrella scheme for aid for activities of recognised agricultural inter-branch organisations in France

  • France
  • 12/10/2008
  • Europa

The European Commission today authorised an umbrella scheme notified by France and funded by ‘compulsory voluntary levies’ which involves aid for members in all the farm sectors represented by recognised agricultural inter-branch organisations. The scheme covers aid for technical assistance, quality agricultural produce, research and development, and advertising campaigns. The estimated annual budget is €250 million. The aid is regarded as compatible with the rules on State aid in agriculture. Aid granted prior to adoption of the decision is not covered.

The Commission’s first concern was to examine the levy arrangements. As made clear in the decision, these are parafiscal contributions and thus constitute public resources. The Commission notes that Government approval, in the form of recognition of an inter-branch organisation, is a prerequisite for the adoption of compulsory levy arrangements. Also, under France’s Rural Code, the levies become compulsory for all members of the branches in question by virtue of being extended by joint ministerial decree. This type of contribution therefore requires an official act in order to take full effect.

Secondly, the Commission has established that the financing arrangements for the scheme do not give rise to objections as regards the principle of non-discrimination and common market organisation (CMO) rules. The Commission’s assessment is based in particular on undertakings from France to ensure that no levies are applied to imports and that levies will be reimbursed on a proportional basis where exported products do not enjoy benefits equivalent to those available under the scheme. The Commission considers that compatibility of the levies with the CMO system is secured by the fact that recognition of the inter-branch organisations and extension of their financing agreements are conditional upon respect for Community agricultural rules as a whole.

Lastly, the Commission examined whether the planned measures – technical assistance, aid for quality farm produce, aid for research and development regarding products listed in Annex I of the Treaty, and advertising campaigns – were compatible with the common market. On the basis of the information provided, it has concluded that the umbrella scheme satisfies the conditions laid down in the rules on State aid in agriculture and therefore qualifies for derogation under Article 87(3)(c) of the Treaty.