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State Aid Control in Western Balkans: Endless Transition?

Marco Botta

During last decade the EU concluded Stabilization and Association Agreements (SAA) with the countries of the Western Balkans (WB). The SAA included the obligation for the WB countries to introduce and to enforce a competition policy, including a system of State aid control. In particular, WB countries were required to establish monitoring authorities in charge of reviewing the aid schemes notified by the other State bodies until the accession of the country to the EU. From the moment accession to the EU, the new aid schemes would be notified to the European Commission.The paper aims at analyzing the ability of the State aid monitoring authorities established in the WB to effectively enforce a system of State aid control during the pre-accession phase. Since the Treaty of Rome, State aid enforcement was delegated to the European Commission. By delegating the enforcement of State aid control to a supranational authority, Member States could resist the lobby pressures from national interest groups, potential aid recipients. The decentralization of the State aid enforcement in WB does not follow this rationale. It is questionable that a newly established monitoring authority can manage to effectively control the aid schemes granted by other State bodies. In particular, the extension of the pre-accession phase that WB are currently experiencing might undermine the political authority of the monitoring authorities vis a vis the other State institutions. In a nutshell, a ''temporary'' national State aid monitoring system becomes de facto enforced over an endless period of time.

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