Research Handbook on European State Aid Law
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Research Handbook on European State Aid Law

Edited by Erika Szyszczak

This timely new Handbook reflects on current issues that confront State aid law and policy in the EU.
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Chapter 13: Altmark Assessed

Erika Szyszczak


Erika Szyszczak Since the nineties, the place of public services within the single market has been a persistent irritant in the European public debate.1 This chapter explores the Altmark ruling in the context of modernising public services.2 Thouvenin (2009) places the Altmark ruling of 24 July 2003 as one of the few cornerstones which constitute the main foundations of EU law, placing Altmark alongside the landmark rulings of Van Gend en Loos,3 Costa v. ENEL,4 Simmenthal,5 AETR 6 and Rutili.7 Viewing the ruling in this light allows an interrogation of the role of State aid law and policy, moving beyond an analysis of how the European Courts and the Commission have moderated the balance between protecting fundamental ideological principles of the Member States in providing public services against the countervailing tendencies of competition, free movement and liberalisation, by asking how Altmark has contributed to the modernisation of the functioning of public services. I. ALTMARK IN CONTEXT Public services have occupied an awkward role in the integration process. Bauby (2011) notes that, with the exception of what is now Article 93 TFEU (in the Chapter on Transport), the original EEC Treaty declined to acknowledge the role of public services in the European integration project. Instead the Treaty re-invented the concept of public services as ‘services of general economic interest’, as a derogation from the fundamental economic policy provisions of the EEC in what is now Article 106(2) TFEU.8 An uneasy relationship developed between the Member States and...

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