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Since 2002 Lexxion Publisher’s European State Aid Law Quarterly – EStAL serves as a forum for dialogue and deliberation on all issues related to State aid. On the occasion of our 15th anniversary special feature we have gathered our State aid family to reflect upon their joint journey together with our precious EStAL and of course our favourite topic State aid. Throughout our jubilee year we will introduce you to our State aid aficionados providing original and behind-the-scenes insights into our community of experts including our distinct editorial board members, country correspondents, regular contributors and more.

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Today we welcome Thomas Jaeger, former Managing Editor (2009 till 2014) and still Editorial Board member of EStAL, from the University of Vienna to the StateAidHub. What's his deal with State aid and how does it relate to the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau?

When and how did you get involved with State Aid Law?

I started my academic career as a PhD researcher for Thomas Eilmansberger, at the time a renowned name in competition law in Austria. Everyone else around me was doing antitrust law. I only turned to State aid law as antitrust’s unattractive little sister (no wild dawn raids, no hefty fines, no show-off economic talk…) in search for an unoccupied niche. The more I dug into the field, the more hidden little gem details came to light. Today, I still don’t have dawn raid anecdotes for my students, nor can I thrill them with exorbitant infringement fines handed down by the Commission. Students however are, just like myself, receptive for the diverse public policy, societal and economic implications of the field: State aid law is a tool for designing the society we want – or don’t want – to live in. Understand that, and fascination for the field will persist.

Why is State aid law important and to whom?

State aid law is an instrument of state design. Hand in hand with public regulation, it co-shapes the foundations of society. State aid law tells the story of the self-understanding and legitimacy of the state, the role and responsibilities assumed by the state and the right balance between personal and economic liberty and state interference and regulation. It is, in other words, the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau applied to the modern-day economic setting. What do Social Europe, solidarity, inclusion and cohesion mean in applied practice, where does the balance between the public interest of a member state vis-à-vis the overall public interest of the Union lie? For answers, look at State aid cases.

What role does EStAL play and what's its impact?

For years, EStAL and EStALI have been, and still are, the leading fora to bring academics, public and private practitioners and stakeholders in the industry and society from all across Europe together for a dialogue over the above issues: What is the role of State aid law, is the role assumed correctly, where are adjustments needed, where is State aid law heading as compared to where it should be heading? There is no comparable forum that does this. For the dialogue over and evolution of State aid law, the continuing importance of EStAL and EStALI can hardly be overstated.

How has State aid law & EStAL evolved over the years? What will the future bring?

If I had to pick three major bullet-points to illustrate the above statement of the role of State aid law as a shaping tool for societal and state design, those would be 1) the Altmark-revolution and the approach to SGEIs, 2) the hardening and sharpening of the enforcement shields and swords and the empowerment of national courts and individuals under the van Calster line of case law and 3) State aid law’s still ongoing struggle for a sensible approach to pinpointing the state and benefit elements for tax and parafiscal measures, illustrated by cases such as PreussenElektra, EDF, Acores or, most recently, Banco Santander and World Duty Free. In those areas of State aid law and others, there is still much work to do to better the suitability of the tool. Let’s take it on, EStAL!

 

Thank you Thomas for these insights into your 'love story' with State aid and EStAL. We are looking forward to taking it on with you on our side!

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