CONSULTATION – GUIDELINES ON REGIONAL STATE AID FOR 2022-2027

CONSULTATION – GUIDELINES ON REGIONAL STATE AID FOR 2022-2027

EU jobber med å gjennomgå de regionale statsstøttereglene. Vi har sammen med våre eiere i Nordland og Troms & Finnmark levert høringssvar på vegne av landsdelen. Statsstøtteregelverket er svært viktig for Nord-Norge.

European Commission 

Directorate-General for Competition 

Ref.: Public consultation - review regional aid 

State aid Registry 

BE-1049 Brussels 

Belgium 

 

 

 

 

Northern Norway, 30th September 2020 

 

 

 

CONSULTATION – GUIDELINES ON REGIONAL STATE AID FOR 2022-2027 

  1. Introduction 

The County Councils of Nordland, and Troms and Finnmark welcome the opportunity to submit our comments to the European Commission on the review of the regional aid guidelines for 2014-2020, The two counties constitute the northernmost regions of Norway. Norway is not part of the EU, but as an EEA country we are affected by the state aid regulations in more or less the same way as any EU Member. Due to the characteristics of our two counties the region is particularly affected by the regional aid guidelines. 

 

  1. Sparsely populated areas 

North Norway is very sparsely populated with only 4,3 inhabitants per km².1 The last 25 years, there have been a population migration from north to south, and where Northern Norway has had a birth deficit in all municipalities. Mainly three cities have population growth (Tromsø, Bodø and Alta), though under the national average growth. This population growth mainly comes from foreign immigration. However, this increase has been declining in recent years and projections show that this will also be an ongoing trend the coming decades.2  

The counties of North Norway therefore, strongly, underline the necessity of a continuation of the guidelines´ approval to grant both investment aid and operating aid in such areas. These tools are necessary in order to prevent and reduce depopulation in the very sparsely populated areas in the outermost regions of Europe. To combat depopulation, stability and continuation of aid measures are necessary, and we wish the present guidelines will be continued on these fields. To have a critical mass of people, with the right competence, is necessary in order to utilize the natural resources that the northernmost regions of Europe contains. Resources like minerals, natural gas, renewable energy, seafood and other marine resources, that the EU are in critical need of, not least with regard to achieving the goal of the EU Green Deal. These resources will also be important with regard to fulfilling the ambitions of the new Industry Strategy.     

Furthermore, the economic disturbance created by the COVID-19 outbreak, will have long-lasting effects also in sparsely populated, remote areas. The County Councils of Northern Norway are acknowledging that the Commission may consider compatible with the internal market on the basis of Article 107(3)(b) TFEU aid schemes that consist in temporary deferrals of taxes or of social security contributions which apply to undertakings that are particularly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak (Temporary Framework).  

The County Councils of Northern Norway is of the firm view that a legal basis for operating aid within the Regional Aid Guidelines is necessary in order to prevent depopulation in the most sparsely populated regions by stimulating employment.     

 

3. Northern Norway as part of the Northern Sparsely Populated Areas (NSPA), and the OECD Territorial Review of 2017. 

In 2014 the NSPA network3 took initiative to prepare the OECD Territorial Review for the NSPA. The report was published in 2017, in connection with the Arctic Stakeholders Forum process that was initiated by the Commission after the EU Arctic Policy decision in 2016. The process aimed to engage the Arctic regions to come up with prioritized measures that could help fulfil the goals of the policy.  

The OECD report has high relevance with regard to the question of regional state aid to these Arctic regions. In the OECD Assessment and Recommendations,4 they focused on the following: 

The NSPA forms part of Europe’s gateway to the Arctic and Russia and faces particular development challenges because of its particular geographic features and location. 

The economic and geopolitical importance of the NSPA regions to the EU and