The European Commission has approved 11 Polish State aid schemes, with a total budget of PLN 35.1 billion (approximately €7.8 billion), to support the Polish economy in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The schemes were approved under the State aid Temporary Framework adopted by the Commission on 19 March 2020, as amended on 3 April 2020.
Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “These 11 schemes with an overall budget of €7.8 billion will enable Poland to support companies and self-employed workers in addressing their immediate liquidity needs, thus alleviating their financial burden in the current crisis.
This will help businesses minimise the economic losses linked to the coronavirus crisis and maintain jobs. Some may hibernate, others continue their activities. We work closely with Member States to ensure that national support measures can be put in place in a coordinated and effective way, in line with EU rules.”
The Polish support measures
Poland notified to the Commission under the Temporary Framework 11 support schemes, with a total budget of PLN 35.1 billion (approximately €7.8 billion), to support companies affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
Under the schemes, the public support will take the form of (i) direct grants, (ii) repayable advances, (iii) tax and payments advantages, (iv) deferrals of tax payments and (vi) wage subsidies.
The schemes, which will be open to micro (including self-employed workers), small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and large companies facing economic difficulties and liquidity shortages due to the coronavirus outbreak, is expected to benefit around 2.5 million businesses, including 2 million self-employed workers.
The schemes aim at providing businesses which are particularly affected by the coronavirus outbreak with sufficient liquidity to cover their immediate working capital and investment needs, thus enabling them to continue their activities, start investments and maintain employment.
The Commission found that the Polish schemes are in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular:
With respect to direct grants, repayable advances and tax and payment advantages, (i) the support will not exceed €100,000 per company for companies active in the primary agricultural sector, €120,000 per company for companies active in the fishery and aquaculture sector and €800,000 per company for companies active in all other sectors as provided by the Temporary Framework, and (ii) the support will not be granted to undertakings that were already in difficulty on 31 December 2019. With respect to deferrals of tax payments, the support, which will consist in a deferral of property tax until 30 September 2020, will be targeted to undertakings that are particularly affected by the coronavirus outbreak and is intended to ease the liquidity constraints faced by the companies receiving the support. With respect to wage subsidies for employees, (i) the measure aims at avoiding lay-offs during the coronavirus outbreak, (ii) the subsidies will be granted over a period of not more than twelve months after the application for aid, for employees that would otherwise have been laid off, and (iii) the benefitting personnel will have to be maintained in continuous employment for the entire period for which the aid is granted.
The Commission therefore concluded that the Polish measures are necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework.
On this basis, the Commission approved the measures under EU State aid rules.
The Commission has adopted a Temporary Framework to enable Member States to use the full flexibility foreseen under State aid rules to support the economy in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The Temporary Framework, as amended on 3 April 2020, provides for the following types of aid, which can be granted by Member States:
(i) Direct grants, equity injections, selective tax advantages and advance payments of up to €100,000 to a company active in the primary agricultural sector, €120,000 to a company active in the fishery and aquaculture sector and €800,000 to a company active in all other sectors to address its urgent liquidity needs. Member States can also give, up to the nominal value of €800,000 per company zero-interest loans or guarantees on loans covering 100% of the risk, except in the primary agriculture sector and in the fishery and aquaculture sector, where the limits of €100,000 and €120,000 per company respectively, apply.
(ii) State guarantees for loans taken by companies to ensure banks keep providing loans to the customers who need them. These state guarantees can cover up to 90% of risk on loans to help businesses cover immediate working capital and investment needs.
(iii) Subsidised public loans to companies with favourable interest rates to companies. These loans can help businesses cover immediate working capital and investment needs.
(iv) Safeguards for banks that channel State aid to the real economy that such aid is considered as direct aid to the banks’ customers, not to the banks themselves, and gives guidance on how to ensure minimal distortion of competition between banks.
(v) Public short-term export credit insurance for all countries, without the need for the Member State in question to demonstrate that the respective country is temporarily “non-marketable”.
(vi) Support for coronavirus related research and development (R&D) to address the current health crisis in the form of direct grants, repayable advances or tax advantages. A bonus may be granted for cross-border cooperation projects between Member States.
(vii) Support for the construction and upscaling of testing facilities to develop and test products (including vaccines, ventilators and protective clothing) useful to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, up to first industrial deployment. This can take the form of direct grants, tax advantages, repayable advances and no-loss guarantees. Companies may benefit from a bonus when their investment is supported by more than one Member State and when the investment is concluded within two months after the granting of the aid.
(viii) Support for the production of products relevant to tackle the coronavirus outbreak in the form of direct grants, tax advantages, repayable advances and no-loss guarantees. Companies may benefit from a bonus when their investment is supported by more than one Member State and when the investment is concluded within two months after the granting of the aid.
(ix) Targeted support in the form of deferral of tax payments and/or suspensions of social security contributions for those sectors, regions or for types of companies that are hit the hardest by the outbreak.
(x) Targeted support in the form of wage subsidies for employees for those companies in sectors or regions that have suffered most from the coronavirus outbreak, and would otherwise have had to lay off personnel.
The Temporary Framework enables Member States to combine all support measures with each other, except for loans and guarantees for the same loan and exceeding the thresholds foreseen by the Temporary Framework. It also enables Member States to combine all support measures granted under the Temporary Framework with existing possibilities to grant de minimis to a company of up to €25,000 over three fiscal years for companies active in the primary agricultural sector, €30,000 over three fiscal years for companies active in the fishery and aquaculture sector and €200,000 over three fiscal years for companies active in all other sectors. At the same time, Member States have to commit to avoid undue cumulation of support measures for the same companies to limit support to meet their actual needs.
Furthermore, the Temporary Framework complements the many other possibilities already available to Member States to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, in line with EU State aid rules. On 13 March 2020, the Commission adopted a Communication on a Coordinated economic response to the COVID-19 outbreak setting out these possibilities. For example, Member States can make generally applicable changes in favour of businesses (e.g. deferring taxes, or subsidising short-time work across all sectors), which fall outside State Aid rules. They can also grant compensation to companies for damage suffered due to and directly caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
The Temporary Framework will be in place until the end of December 2020. With a view to ensuring legal certainty, the Commission will assess before that date if it needs to be extended.