EU State Aid rules generally prohibit State measures and actions which provide an unfair advantage to a competitor over its rivals. The rules are enforced by the European Commission subject to appeal to the EU Courts in Luxembourg. State Aid issues may also be raised in the national courts of Member States.
The State Aid rules are drafted in very broad terms and can be open to interpretation. Consequently, it is very important that advisors understand the legal and policy considerations that the European Commission may take into account in interpreting and applying the State Aid rules to particular issues.
John Meade advises Government Departments and companies in Ireland and in Northern Ireland on the application of the State Aid rules.
From September 2008 onwards John advised the Department of Finance in Ireland on measures which were adopted by the Irish Government in the Irish banking sector in response to the financial crisis which developed at that time. The measures required Approval under the EU State Aid rules and in certain respects raised issues which were unprecedented under the rules, for example, the adoption of a State Guarantee for the banking sector in Ireland and the subsequent establishment of NAMA, a State agency which would acquire non-performing loans of the banks.
The position which the European Commission decided to adopt on such measures was likely to have very significant implications for the banking sector in the European Union and State Aid rules generally. Other issues also arose which raised issues under State Aid rules, for example, the nationalisation of Anglo Irish Bank.
John advised the Department of Finance in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General on the various measures which were adopted, the State Aid issues which arose and the processes involved. The measures were approved by the European Commission under the State Aid rules following notification of the measures to the European Commission.
The Irish banks were restructured in the light of the measures adopted by the State and the approvals granted by the European Commission. The restructuring of the banks raised issues under Competition Law and Merger Control rules in addition to State Aid rules. John Meade also advised the State on those issues.
John’s experience in undertaking the State Aid work in the aftermath of the banking crisis is unrivalled in Ireland. His work also provided him with an invaluable insight in advising clients on the approach that the European Commission may take to such issues and State Aid generally in circumstances where policy considerations can play a vital role in the review of such issues.
Other work in which he has been involved includes advising on State Aid issues raised in relation to State support provided in Northern Ireland for the development of sports stadia in Northern Ireland. In recent years, he has advised on State Aid issues across a wide range of sectors, including air transport, agriculture, property and shipping. He is currently acting on behalf of a client on a State Aid Complaint which the client has submitted to the European Commission.