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C 1/4 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 4.1.2002 STATE AID — ITALY (Articles 87 to 89 of the EC Treaty) Commission notice under Article 88(2) of the EC Treaty to other Member States and interested parties on aid notified by Italy (Sicily) in favour of agricultural guarantee consortia (consorzi fidi) — Regional Law No 23/95 and Article 5 of draft Law No 975-955 as far as applicable to the production, processing and marketing of Annex I agricultural products (2002/C 1/04) By lett
  STATE AID — ITALY(Articles 87 to 89 of the EC Treaty)Commission notice under Article 88(2) of the EC Treaty to other Member States and interestedparties on aid notified by Italy (Sicily) in favour of agricultural guarantee consortia (consorzi fidi) — Regional Law No 23/95 and Article 5 of draft Law No 975-955 as far as applicable to theproduction, processing and marketing of Annex I agricultural products (2002/C 1/04)By letter of 19 September 2001, reproduced below, theCommission informed Italy of its decision to close the Article88(2) procedure.‘The Commission wishes to inform Italy that, having examinedthe withdrawal of notification supplied by your authorities onthe measure referred to above, pursuant to Article 8(2) of Council Regulation (EC) No 659/1999 ( 1 ) it has decided toclose the procedure laid down in Article 88(2) of the EC Treaty. I By letter dated 9 March 1995, registered on 14 March 1995 theItalian Permanent Representation to the European Unionnotified the Commission, in accordance with Article 88(3) of the Treaty, of draft Regional Law (Sicily) No 839 (aid schemeN 271/95) on aid which the region intended to grant to SMEsin various sectors (agriculture, fisheries, industry, transport,tourism, trade, services) with a view to establishing andoperating collective guarantee consortia to facilitate access by their members to credit and various financial services.By letter of 28 April 1995, registered on 7 June 1995, the sameauthorities sent the Commission the text of Regional Law No23/95 (approving the above draft law, with amendments) andthe text of draft Regional Law No 975-955, Article 5 of whichamended Law No 23/95 (aid scheme N 518/95).Since the second notification (registered as aid N 518/95)covered the scope of, and replaced the first notification(registered as aid N 271/95), the latter was deleted from theregister of notifications.The Commission decided to scrutinise the texts in questionindividually according to the production sector involved. Theaid scheme was, therefore, subdivided as follows:No 518/B/95 agriculture,No 518/C/95 transport,No 518/D/95 fisheries,No 518/A/95 other sectors.With regard to aid No 518/B/95 (agriculture), following therequest of information by Commission services sent by telexdated 2 August 1995/VI/029959, and the subsequent remindersent by telex dated 8 November 1995/VI/041218, thecompetent authorities sent additional information by letter of 20 November 1995, registered on 23 November 1995.Following the request of Commission services by letter dated15 January 1996, by telex of 31 January 1996 the competentauthorities consented to a prolongation of the deadline for theexamination of the file. II By letter dated 16 April 1996 SG(96) D/3905, the Commissioninformed Italy that it had decided to initiate the procedure laiddown in Article 88(2) of the EC Treaty in respect of the aidsprovided by Regional Law (Sicily) No 23/95 ( 2 ) and by Article 5of draft Law No 975-955 ( 3 ) as far as the production,processing and marketing of agriculture products wereconcerned.In particular the aid scheme introduced by the provisions inquestion consisted of a new mechanism to support agriculturalenterprises by facilitating their access to credit and variousfinancial services (factoring, leasing, collective guarantee,subsidised credit operations, etc.) which had been little usedby small-scale undertakings. The scheme applied to the agri-cultural sector the model already in place for small businessesin other production sectors (accepted by the Commissionunder the “ de-minimis ” rule). EN C 1/4 Official Journal of the European Communities 4.1.2002 ( 1 ) Council Regulation (EC) No 659/1999 of 22 March 1999 layingdown detailed rules for the application of Article 93 of the ECTreaty (OJ L 83, 27.3.1999 p. 1).( 2 ) Law No 23, 28 March 1995 — Rules for collective guaranteefinancial consortia between SMEs. Provisions interpreting andmodifying the provisions of Regional Laws No 36/1991, No15/1993 and No 25/1993.( 3 ) The said Article 5 (Integration to the regional law on guaranteeconsortia) provides that: “The provisions contained in Article 1and ff. of the Law approved by the Regional Assembly on 16March 1995, providing for ’Rules for collective guarantee financialconsortia between SMEs. Provisions interpreting and modifying theprovisions of Regional Laws No 36/1991, No 15/1993 and No25/1993’ apply also to undertakings which request a financingfor the consolidation of short-term banking debts, for a periodno longer than seven years”.  The purpose was to encourage businesses to form legal entities,either a cooperative or consortium of cooperatives (called consorzi fidi ), which run one or several separate funds toguarantee (and/or reduce the cost of) certain financialoperations carried out by their members.This involved in particular “risk coverage funds” (“fondi rischi”)to guarantee borrowing, leasing and factoring operations and a“guarantee fund” (“monte fideiussioni”) to guarantee creditoperations.The public intervention took the form of aid (usually subsidies)granted to the guarantee consortia at various moments in time.These subsidies were aimed at enabling the consortia to offertheir members aid in the form of guarantees for the financialoperations involved and reductions in the financial costs of these operations.The aid measures concerned were in particular the followingones:— public contribution to the guarantee funds and risk funds,— start-up aid for the guarantee consortia,— reduction in factoring and leasing costs,— subsidised credit for management operations and forconsolidation of liabilities,— coverage of losses when guarantees were called in.The Commission had doubts about the compatibility of theabove aid measures with Article 87(3)(c) as, on the basis of the information available, they did not appear to meet therequirements established by the State aid rules which werethen applied for the examination of these types of aidmeasures. The said rules were specified in the Commissiondecision to initiate the procedure envisaged by Article 88(2)of the Treaty on the aid measures concerned, which waspublished in the Official Journal of the European Communities ( 4 ).Following the above Commission decision Italy submittedcomments by letters of 17 March 1997, registered on 26March 1997. Following the publication of the decision in the Official Journal of the European Communities ( 4 ) no commentswere received from third parties. III By letter of 25 April 2001, the Italian authorities asked thewithdrawal of the notification registered under aid C 9/96(Regional Law 28 March 1995, No 23 — Aid to guaranteeconsortia in the agricultural sector) and specified that themeasures concerned had not been implemented ( 5 ).In view of the letter from the Italian authorities announcing thewithdrawal of the contested part of the aid measure and inaccordance with Article 8(2) of Regulation (EC) No659/1999 ( 6 ) the Commission has decided to close thisprocedure.’ EN 4.1.2002 Official Journal of the European Communities C 1/5 ( 4 ) OJ C 150, 24.5.1996.( 5 ) In the said letter the competent authorities also specified thatArticle 99 of Regional Law No 32/2000 had introduced a new aid regime for the establishment of guarantee consortia (“consorzifidi”) concerning also the agricultural sector, and that the saidRegional Law was in the course of notification. Moreover, it mustbe noted that Article 13 of Regional Law No 23/95 made theenvisaged financing conditional on the respect of the applicableEC State aid rules and on the conclusion of the procedureenvisaged by paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 93 (now Article 88)of the EC Treaty.( 6 ) OJ L 83, 27.3.1999, p. 1.
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