EU Approves Amendments to Dutch Scheme for Rail Network Interoperability Support

European Commission granted approval, under EU State aid rules, to an amendment in the Dutch scheme to promote the shift of freight transport from road to rail. Originally approved in November 2019, the scheme aimed to upgrade traffic management equipment on freight locomotives in the Netherlands by installing the European Railway Traffic Management System (ERTMS), enhancing cross-border rail interoperability and promoting competitiveness in rail transport.

The Netherlands sought to amend the scheme by increasing its budget by €21 million, bringing the total budget to €67 million, including funding from the Connecting Europe Facility. The increased budget allows for more vehicles to be upgraded, compensating their owners during the installation process when they cannot be used commercially. The aid will be in the form of direct grants, and the amended scheme will run until December 31, 2023.

The Commission assessed the amended scheme under EU State aid rules and concluded that it remains necessary to promote rail transport, aligning with the EU Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy and the European Green Deal. The aid will have an ‘incentive effect’ as beneficiaries would not invest to the same extent without public support. The scheme is deemed proportionate, with limited impact on competition and trade between Member States.

Approval of Polish Scheme to Support Companies Amid Russia’s War Against Ukraine

The European Commission has approved an approximately €176 million (PLN 780 million) Polish scheme to aid companies facing liquidity shortages caused by Russia’s war against Ukraine. The aid will be in the form of subsidies on loan interest rates and will be available to small and medium-sized companies involved in the trading or purchasing of cereals, agricultural plant seeds, or the purchasing or freezing of soft fruit. Over 1,000 beneficiaries are expected under the scheme.

The Commission found the Polish scheme in line with the conditions set out in the State aid Temporary Crisis and Transition Framework. The aid will not exceed €2 million per beneficiary and will be granted no later than December 31, 2023. The Commission concluded that the scheme is necessary, appropriate, and proportionate to address a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State.

Commission Clears Acquisition of Kensa by Octopus Energy and LGC

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of joint control of Kensa Group Limited by Octopus Energy Group Limited and Legal & General Capital Investments Limited, all three from the UK. Kensa specializes in ground-source heat pumps and accessories, while Octopus Energy generates and supplies renewable energy, and LGC is an investment company active in various sectors, including clean energy and specialist commercial real estate.

The Commission concluded that the acquisition raises no competition concerns as Kensa has almost no activities within the European Economic Area. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.