Language of document : ECLI:EU:C:2020:352

Provisional text

OPINION OF ADVOCATE GENERAL

HOGAN

delivered on 7 May 2020 (1)

Case C594/18 P

Republic of Austria

v

European Commission

(Appeal — State aid — Aid planned by the United Kingdom in favour of Hinkley Point C nuclear power station — Contract for Difference, Secretary of State Agreement and Credit Guarantee — Decision declaring the aid compatible with the internal market — Public interest objective — Investment aid —Operating aid —Article 107(3)(c) TFEU — Article 194(2) TFEU — Article 106a(3) of the Euratom Treaty — Promotion of nuclear energy — Guarantee notice)






I.      Introduction

1.        This case can be described as the legal side of a dispute between Member States that are in favour of nuclear power and those that are not. Both sides claim that they pursue their course with a view to protecting the environment. (2) At the heart of the matter lies the fundamental question of whether the construction of a nuclear power plant can be the subject of a State aid approval by the European Commission for the purposes of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU. That is perhaps the single most important question posed in this appeal from a decision of the General Court delivered on 12 July 2018 in Austria v Commission (3) (‘the judgment under appeal’).

2.        In that decision, the General Court dismissed annulment proceedings brought by the Republic of Austria challenging the validity of Commission Decision (EU) 2015/658 of 8 October 2014 (4) (‘the decision at issue’). That decision concerns the provision of financial support by the United Kingdom in respect of the construction of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station on the south-western coast of England. As might be expected, the details of both the decision at issue and the judgment under appeal are complex: the very fact that the judgment of the General Court runs to some 736 paragraphs speaks for itself.

3.        Yet, as I have already indicated, at the very heart of this appeal brought by the Republic of Austria lies its contention that because it (and, for that matter, several other Member States) is resolutely opposed to the construction of nuclear power stations, the granting of aid for such projects by other Member States who support nuclear power is either expressly or implicitly precluded by the various Treaties governing the European Union (including the Euratom Treaty). For its part, the United Kingdom (which has intervened to support the decision at issue) has maintained that it is entitled to choose its own energy policy, including a right to choose ‘between different energy sources and the general structure of its energy supply’ in the manner recognised by the second subparagraph of Article 194(2) TFEU.

4.        This Court has only rarely had the occasion itself to pronounce on the correct application of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU, a provision on which the General Court has developed its case-law over the years. Among the questions raised on this appeal, the Court is called on to pronounce on whether State aids must fulfil specific objectives in order to be compatible with the common market in accordance with Article 107(3)(c) TFEU and, if so, what those are. It will further have the occasion to consider whether, in an assessment of State aid for an activity covered by the Euratom Treaty, other aims of the Union as stated in the TEU and the TFEU — in the case at issue, the protection of the environment — have to be taken into account or not.

II.    Legal context

5.        Articles 107(3)(c), 192(2)(c) and 194(2) TFEU, and Articles 1, 2, 106a(3) and the first paragraph of Article 192 of the Euratom Treaty are the provisions of primary law which form the legal background to this appeal.

6.        Article 1(c) of Council Regulation (EU) 2015/1589 of 13 July 2015 laying down detailed rules for the application of Article 108 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (5) contains the following definition:

‘“new aid” means all aid, that is to say, aid schemes and individual aid, which is not existing aid, including alterations to existing aid’.

7.        Article 4 of Commission Regulation (EC) No 794/2004 of 21 April 2004 implementing Council Regulation (EC) No 659/1999 (6) reads as follows:

‘1.      For the purposes of Article 1(c) of Regulation (EC) No 659/1999, an alteration to existing aid shall mean any change, other than modifications of a purely formal or administrative nature which cannot affect the evaluation of the compatibility of the aid measure with the common market. However an increase in the original budget of an existing aid scheme by up to 20% shall not be considered an alteration to existing aid.

2.      The following alterations to existing aid shall be notified on the simplified notification form set out in Annex II:

(a)      increases in the budget of an authorised aid scheme exceeding 20%;

(b)      prolongation of an existing authorised aid scheme by up to six years, with or without an increase in the budget;

(c)      tightening of the criteria for the application of an authorised aid scheme, a reduction of aid intensity or a reduction of eligible expenses;

3.      The simplified notification procedure shall not be used to notify alterations to aid schemes in respect of which Member States have not submitted annual report …’

8.        Point 3.2 of the Commission Notice on the application of Articles 87 and 88 of the EC Treaty to State aid in the form of guarantees (7) (‘the Guarantee Notice’) reads as follows:

‘Regarding an individual State guarantee, the Commission considers that the fulfilment of all the following conditions will be sufficient to rule out the presence of State aid.

(a)      The borrower is not in financial difficulty.

(b)      The extent of the guarantee can be properly measured when it is granted. This means that the guarantee must be linked to a specific financial transaction, for a fixed maximum amount and limited in time.

(c)      The guarantee does not cover more than 80% of the outstanding loan or other financial obligation; this limitation does not apply to guarantees covering debt securities.

(d)      A market-oriented price is paid for the guarantee.

…’

9.        Points 5.1 and 5.2 of the Guarantee Notice provide as follows:

‘5.1      General

State guarantees within the scope of Article 87(1) [EC (now Article 107(1) TFEU)] must be examined by the Commission with a view to determining whether or not they are compatible with the common market. Before such assessment of compatibility can be made, the beneficiary of the aid must be identified.

5.2.      Assessment

Whether or not this aid is compatible with the common market will be examined by the Commission according to the same rules as are applied to aid measures taking other forms. …’

III. Background to the dispute

10.      On 22 October 2013, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland notified measures in support of a new nuclear power station to be located at Hinkley Point C, next to two existing nuclear power stations, known as Hinkley Point A and Hinkley Point B (‘Hinkley Point C’). The beneficiary of the notified measures is a company entitled NNB Generation Company Limited (‘NNBG’), which is itself a subsidiary of EDF Energy plc (‘EDF’).

11.      The measures that were notified and which are described in detail in Section 2 of the decision at issue, are the following:

–        A contractual agreement aimed at providing price stability for the sale of the electricity produced at Hinkley Point C. The basic concept of that contract is as follows: NNBG will either receive or have to pay the difference between a pre-determined strike price, calculated on the basis of NNBG’s projected construction and operating costs, including a reasonable profit, (8) and a reference price set by the United Kingdom for all operators providing energy in the same segment (9) that are supported by such a measure (‘the Contract for Difference’). The contract further contains a ‘gain-share’ mechanism. It is entered into between NNBG and Low Carbon Contracts Company Ltd, an entity that is to be funded through the imposition of a statutory obligation on all the licensed electricity suppliers.

–        Furthermore, NNBG will be protected and may recover costs for certain legislative changes and NNBG and its investors will receive compensation in case of an early shutdown for political reasons (10) or for reasons linked to the unavailability of nuclear third-party liability insurance. In such cases NNBG may be transferred to the United Kingdom Government.

–        The abovementioned right of NNBG’s investors to receive compensation in case of a shutdown for political reasons is accompanied by a guarantee agreement to be concluded between the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and NNBG’s investors, according to which the Secretary of State will pay the agreed compensation in case the Low Carbon Contracts Company Ltd should not be able to do so (‘Secretary of State Agreement’).

–        The United Kingdom will guarantee bonds to be issued by NNBG in order to finance the investment. The guarantee covers the timely payment of principal and interest of qualifying debt and could reach up to 17 billion pounds sterling (GBP) (‘Credit Guarantee’).

12.      By its decision of 18 December 2013, (11) the Commission decided to initiate a formal investigation procedure in respect of the measures notified.

13.      That procedure led to the adoption of the decision at issue by the Commission on 8 October 2014. In that decision, the Commission stated that the notified measures constituted State aid but that the measures were also compatible with the internal market according to Article 107(3)(c) TFEU.

14.      The operative part of the decision at issue reads as follows:

‘Article 1

Aid to Hinkley Point C in the form of a Contract for Difference, the Secretary of State Agreement and a Credit Guarantee, as well as all related elements, which the UK is planning to implement, is compatible with the internal market within the meaning of Article 107(3)(c) [TFEU].

Implementation of the aid is accordingly authorised.

…’

IV.    Procedure before the General Court and the judgment under appeal

15.      By application lodged with the registry of the General Court on 6 July 2015, the Republic of Austria brought an action for the annulment of the decision at issue. By decision of the President of the Chamber of 18 December 2015, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg was granted leave to intervene in support of the Republic of Austria. By decisions of the President of the Chamber of 9 December 2015, of 6 January 2016 and of 11 January 2016, the Czech Republic, the French Republic, Hungary, the Republic of Poland, Romania, the Slovak Republic and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland were granted leave to intervene in support of the Commission.

16.      In support of its action before the General Court, the Republic of Austria raised ten pleas in law.

17.      By the judgment under appeal, the General Court dismissed the action in its entirety. It ordered the Republic of Austria to bear its own costs and to pay those incurred by the European Commission. The intervening parties were ordered to bear their own costs.

V.      The appeal

A.      Forms of order sought and procedure before the Court

18.      The Republic of Austria claims that the Court should:

–        set aside in full the judgment under appeal;

–        grant, in its entirety, the application at first instance for annulment of the decision at issue;

–        order the European Commission to pay the costs.

19.      The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg supports the form of order sought by the Republic of Austria.

20.      The Commission claims that the Court should:

–        dismiss the appeal;

–        order the Republic of Austria to pay the costs.

21.      The Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic fully support the form of order sought by the Commission. The French Republic, Hungary, the Republic of Poland and the United Kingdom support the order to dismiss the appeal sought by the Commission.

22.      Written observations on the appeal were submitted by all the parties intervening in the first instance, except Romania. The Czech Republic, French Republic, Hungary, the Republic of Austria, and the United Kingdom as well as the Commission presented oral arguments before the Court at the hearing on 28 January 2020.

B.      Effect of the United Kingdom leaving the EU and Euratom

23.      The United Kingdom left the European Union at midnight (CET) on 31 January 2020. Given that the proceedings in the present case were not brought against the United Kingdom, that does not, as such, directly affect the proceedings in any way. It may be noted, however, that pursuant to Article 89 of the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community, (12) the judgment of this Court will continue to have binding force in its entirety on and in the United Kingdom, if it is handed down before the end of the transition period.

24.      In any event, the Republic of Austria is clearly entitled to seek the annulment of the judgment under appeal.

C.      Analysis of the appeal

25.      The present appeal to this Court has been condensed into five separate pleas in law, albeit that these largely replicate the various grounds which were before the General Court. It may be noted, however, that certain pleas challenging the decision at issue, which were advanced by the Republic of Austria before the General Court, are no longer being pursued.

26.      By its first plea in law, the Republic of Austria claims that the building of a new nuclear power station is not a legitimate objective in the interest of the Union that can be pursued by State aid. For this purpose, it challenges paragraphs 79 et seq., 97 and 517 of the judgment under appeal. By its second plea in law, the Republic of Austria claims that the General Court erred in law when it considered, in paragraphs 105, 139, 140, 144, 151 and 240 of the judgment under appeal, that the measures at issue are compatible with Article 107(3)(c) TFEU, as the economic activity concerned had not been defined correctly and it failed to recognise that a market failure is a requirement for an aid to be compatible with the internal market. By its third plea in law, the Republic of Austria challenges the General Court’s assessment in paragraphs 405, 413, 470, 499, 506, 507, 515 et seq. of the judgment under appeal in so far as the General Court considered the aid measures to be proportionate. By its fourth plea in law, the Republic of Austria claims that the aid constitutes operating aid which is contrary to the EU rules on State aid, thus challenging paragraphs 612 and 613 of the judgment under appeal. By its fifth plea in law, the Republic of Austria considers, on the one hand, that the decision at issue did not sufficiently determine the aid elements to make it possible to apply the proportionality test and, on the other hand, that the decision at issue is in breach of the Guarantee Notice. In that respect, it takes issue with paragraphs 251 et seq., 279 and 361 of the judgment under appeal, in which the General Court rejected the application of guidelines and regulations that are not directly applicable in application of the principles of equal treatment and non-discrimination, as well as paragraphs 309 and 338 of the judgment under appeal with regard to the application of the Guarantee Notice.

27.      I propose now to deal with the different pleas in law in turn.

1.      First plea in law: the construction of a nuclear power plant is not a legitimate objective in the interest of the Union

(a)    Summary of the Republic of Austria’s arguments

28.      The first plea in law is divided into three parts. First, the Republic of Austria argues that the General Court, in paragraph 79 et seq. of the judgment under appeal, assumed incorrectly that, for the question whether the support of nuclear power is an interest that can be pursued by State aid, the relevant criterion is whether the interest pursued constitutes a ‘public interest’ rather than whether it constitutes a ‘common interest’. Based on that assessment, the General Court erred in law when it considered the aid to be compatible with the internal market merely because it serves a public interest.

29.      In that assessment, the Republic of Austria argues that the General Court departed from the practice of the Commission as well as established case-law according to which all State aid has to pursue a ‘common interest’ of the Union. The Republic of Austria further contends that a common interest of the Union is an interest which is common to all Member States.

30.      In the second part of its first plea in law, the Republic of Austria argues that the General Court erred when it found in paragraph 97 of the judgment under appeal that Article 2(c) of the Euratom Treaty can be relied on to justify State aid for investment in the field of nuclear energy. The wording of that provision does not encompass the creation of new nuclear energy generating capacity but only aims ‘to facilitate investment and ensure … the establishment of the basic installations necessary for the development of nuclear energy in the Community’. Nor does Chapter IV of the Euratom Treaty (‘Investment’) mention State aid as a measure envisaged to achieve that aim.

31.      In the third part of its first plea in law, the Republic of Austria criticises the General Court’s reliance on Article 106a of the Euratom Treaty when it applied Article 107 TFEU, on the basis that the Euratom Treaty does not contain any rules dealing with State aid. Given that the General Court applied Article 107(3)(c) TFEU to a situation governed by the Euratom Treaty, it should also have taken into consideration other provisions of EU law outside the Euratom Treaty. The provisions in question are those on the protection of the environment — which encompasses the protection of health — namely Article 37 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (‘the Charter’) and Article 11 TFEU and, more specifically, ‘in the context of the establishment and functioning of the internal market and with regard for the need to preserve and improve the environment … [the promotion] of energy efficiency and energy saving and the development of new and renewable forms of energy’, as specifically singled out as aims of the Union policy on energy in Article 194(1)(c) TFEU. It also points to the fact that the General Court did not take those objectives into account, something which it maintains runs counter to the precautionary principle, the ‘polluter pays’ principle and the principle of sustainability. In that respect, the Republic of Austria challenges paragraph 516 of the judgment under appeal.

(b)    Assessment

32.      It may be convenient to deal first with the preliminary point regarding the general relationship between the Euratom Treaty and the TFEU, which contains the provisions on State aid that are at issue here, as that point is relevant to several of the arguments raised by the Republic of Austria. In doing so, I will also partly deal with the third part of the first plea in law.

(1)    The relationship between the Euratom Treaty and the provisions of the TEU and the TFEU

33.      As I propose to illustrate presently, although the Republic of Austria argues that the installation of new nuclear power plants is not covered by Article 2(c) of the Euratom Treaty, it does not seem to suggest that the Euratom Treaty as such has no role to play in the present case. It rather contends that, because the Euratom Treaty does not deal with State aid for the nuclear energy sector, that sector should not — and, perhaps it might even be more true to say, cannot — be supported with State aid. This invites a closer look at the relationship between the Euratom Treaty and the TEU as well as the TFEU and, in particular, the scope and significance of Article 106a(3) of the Euratom Treaty and the second subparagraph of Article 194(2) TFEU.

34.      The wording of Article 106a(3) of the Euratom Treaty makes it clear that the Euratom Treaty stands on an equal footing with the TEU and the TFEU as primary law. (13) It states that provisions of the TEU and the TFEU may not be applied in the sphere of the Euratom Treaty, in so far as those provisions derogate from the provisions of the Euratom Treaty. (14) As the General Court put it: ‘Consequently, the provisions of the Euratom Treaty constitute special rules in relation to the provisions of the [TFEU] and therefore derogate from the latter provisions in the event of any conflict’. (15)

35.      This means that if a particular issue has been specially dealt with by a provision of the Euratom Treaty, then there is no room for the application of the TEU or the TFEU in so far as they provide to the contrary.

36.      The question of what happens if a question is not dealt with in the Euratom Treaty is, perhaps, not quite as straightforward. As Advocate General Szpunar pointed out in his Opinion in Kernkraftwerke Lippe-Ems, (16) there are two ways of looking at the relationship between those Treaties. One either takes the view that the Euratom Treaty deals exhaustively with all questions pertaining to the area of nuclear power, leaving no room at all for the application of either the TEU or the TFEU. The other approach is to say that  the TEU and the TFEU apply in all areas covered by EU law  which are not dealt with in the Euratom Treaty.

37.      Given that the Euratom Treaty is only a sectoral treaty aimed at furthering research, development and investment in the nuclear industry, (17) whereas the TEU and the TFEU have much more far-reaching aims and, given the Union’s extensive competences in a wide range of areas and sectors, it seems appropriate to apply the rules of the TFEU whenever the Euratom Treaty does not contain more specific rules. It would be odd if, for example, the provisions of Article 157(1) TFEU relating to equal pay were not to apply to employees working in the nuclear energy sector. This, in any event, is the approach which is also reflected in the case-law of this Court. (18)

38.      It follows, in my view, that the provisions of the Euratom Treaty have to be considered as leges speciales in respect of the provisions of the TFEU which do not preclude the application of provisions of the TFEU if the Euratom Treaty does not have any special or specific rules in that area. Any other conclusion would mean in effect that the production of nuclear power was not governed by any of the general rules governing the internal market. In the present case, it is clear that the Euratom Treaty does not contain special rules regarding State aid. It follows, therefore, that the provisions of Articles 107, 108 and 109 TFEU apply to aid granted by Member States in the field of nuclear energy.

39.      The Republic of Austria seems to accept this. It maintains, however, that if one accepts that the rules on State aid — which pursue the TFEU objective of achieving/maintaining undistorted competition — can be applied in the field of nuclear energy, then other Treaty objectives, like environmental protection, the ‘polluter pays’ principle and Article 37 of the Charter (relating to environmental protection) must also be taken into account.

40.      For my part, however, I cannot accept that argument. It essentially amounts to saying that nuclear power is per  se inconsistent with the environmental objectives of the TFEU and that, accordingly, State aid of any form to assist the construction or operation of such plants should not be countenanced.

41.      It is true, of course, that at a political level the merits (or, as the case may be, the demerits) of nuclear power are hotly debated in many Member States and it is an issue in respect of which there is presently no real consensus. Some may think that the shadow of Three Mile Island, Fukushima and, above all, Chernobyl, looms over the construction and development of every nuclear power plant and that that experience is sufficient to point to the existence of a grave environmental risk, the elimination of which is simply impossible. Others may think that as nuclear energy provides a sustainable, low-carbon source of energy it must accordingly be part of a mix of energy supplies if reliance on fossil fuels is to be ended and climate change targets are to be met.

42.      This Court has quite obviously neither the competence nor, just as importantly, the democratic legitimacy to rule on such issues. It is, I think, rather sufficient to say that if the development of nuclear energy is, as reflected in the Euratom Treaty, a clearly defined objective of EU primary law, that objective cannot as a matter of law be subordinated in that respect to other — and, on one view, possibly conflicting — objectives of the TFEU. In addition, the clear words of the second subparagraph of Article 194(2) TFEU plainly acknowledge the right of each Member State to choose ‘between different energy sources and the general structure of its energy supply’ and that right must extend, should a Member State think well of it, to the right to develop nuclear energy and nuclear power plants as part of its energy supply sources.

43.      Any other conclusion would mean in effect that the effet utile of Article 106a(3) of the Euratom Treaty and the second subparagraph of Article 194(2) TFEU would be hollowed out and emptied of substance.

(2)    Whether the first plea in law is properly before the Court

44.      It is next necessary to deal with the Commission’s argument that the first plea in law is ineffective. In support of that argument, it relies on paragraph 85 of the judgment under appeal and the fact that that part of the judgment was not attacked by the Republic of Austria. (19) The Commission claims that the question of whether a ‘common interest’ or a ‘public interest’ has to be served by an aid measure is immaterial because the General Court stated in that paragraph that it is necessary for the application of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU to distinguish between the objective pursued by a Member State and the condition that State aid must not adversely affect trading conditions to an extent contrary to the common interest. Relying on that paragraph, the Commission argues that the General Court did not consider that the aid, in order to be admissible according to Article 107(3)(c) TFEU, had to pursue a public interest. Thus, if the Republic of Austria claims that the correct criterion should have been a ‘common interest’ rather than a ‘public interest’ test, the Commission contends that the General Court applied neither test in its judgment.

45.      For my part, I do not agree with that assessment. In paragraph 87 of the judgment under appeal the General Court stated ‘… it cannot be inferred from this that the public interest objectives that may be pursued by a Member State are limited to those that are common to all or the majority of the Member States’. (20) It thus implies that it is considering the purpose of an aid measure, which, in its opinion, must be to pursue a public interest. Nor would the General Court have had to ‘requalify’ the term ‘common interest’ used in its judgment in Mediaset v Commission (21) to mean ‘public interest’, as opposed to ‘private interest’, (22) if it did not consider that criterion material. (23)

46.      Nor can I agree with the Commission’s claim that the General Court did not rely on a separate criterion that stipulates that the aid in question has to further a ‘public interest’ because the facilitation of the development of ‘certain economic activities’ — the requirement that is set out directly in the wording of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU — per se constitutes that ‘public interest’ or, indeed, that the terms ‘common interest’ and ‘public interest’ are synonymous. To give just three examples: First, in paragraph 48 of the judgment under appeal, the General Court stated ‘in order to be capable of being declared compatible with the internal market pursuant to Article 107(3)(c) TFEU, aid must be aimed at the development of an activity that constitutes a public interest objective’. (24) Second, in the next paragraph, the Court considers that it is appropriate first to examine the public interest objective relied on by the United Kingdom.

47.      Third, in its reference to its judgment in Mediaset v Commission, (25) the General Court made it clear that it did rely on that requirement, if only to exclude ‘private interests’. (26) In paragraphs 79 to 128 of the judgment under appeal, headed ‘The arguments calling in question the Commission’s conclusion that the promotion of nuclear energy constitutes an objective of “common” interest’, alone, the term ‘public interest objective’ was used 16 times — interestingly, even when referring to the decision at issue where the Commission refers to ‘an objective of common interest’. (27) In those references, the General Court dealt with the question of whether the promotion of nuclear energy pursues an objective of public interest for the purposes of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU and not whether that might be a private rather than a public interest. While the Commission might be correct to say that Article 107(3)(c) TFEU does not stipulate that an aid must serve a public interest in order to be compatible with the internal market, that proposition was not expressly endorsed by the General Court in the judgment under appeal.

48.      It follows that I do not consider the first plea in law to be inoperative on this ground. It is rather a plea with which the Court must properly deal.

(3)    ‘Public interest’ or ‘common interest’ as requirements of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU

49.      The Republic of Austria basically argues that, in order for Article 107(3)(c) TFEU to apply, an aid measure has to pursue a ‘common interest’ and that that can only be considered to be the case if all Member States support that interest. The General Court took the opposite view in paragraph 79 et seq. of the judgment under appeal. There are two aspects to this matter. First, whether Article 107(3)(c) TFEU has an additional requirement that is not contained in its wording, namely, that the aid must pursue a ‘common interest’ and, if that is so, what constitutes such a ‘common interest’. Second, if the existence of such an additional requirement can be established, there is the further question of whether that ‘common interest’ must be considered from the point of view of all Member States.

50.      When assessing these questions, it must be kept in mind that this Court has consistently held that the Commission enjoys a wide discretion in respect of any examination under Article 107(3)(c) TFEU in respect of whether the State aid in question is compatible with the internal market. Any such exercise which involves economic and social assessments must necessarily be made in a Community context. (28) As a result, judicial review of the manner in which that discretion is exercised is confined to establishing that the rules of procedure and the rules relating to the duty to give reasons have been complied with, and to verifying the accuracy of the facts relied on and that there has been no error of law, manifest error of assessment in regard to the facts or misuse of powers. (29)

51.      With respect to this wide discretion, I would first like to deal with the Republic of Austria’s argument that, in only requiring that the measure supported by State aid furthers a ‘public interest’ rather than a ‘common interest’, the General Court departed from the Commission’s practice as well as from the majority of the case-law. In support of the first submission, the Republic of Austria cites a number of soft law instruments, none of which is, however, applicable to the present case. (30) It further refers to the decision at issue, which indeed deals with the question of whether the aid furthers a ‘common interest’ in its Chapter 9.2. (31) In support of the second submission, it cites the judgments of this Court in Philip Morris Holland v Commission, (32) Deufil v Commission (33) and Spain v Commission. (34)

52.      As the Commission has no competence to legislate in the area of State aid, it obviously follows that any notices, guidelines and frameworks cannot be binding in themselves. If the notices and guidelines to which the Republic of Austria refers were applicable to the set of circumstances in this case, then they might indeed impose a limit on the exercise of the Commission’s discretion. (35) However, even then, the Commission is only bound to the extent that those texts do not depart from the proper application of the rules in the TFEU, as guidelines and notices emanating from the Commission can obviously not derogate from those Treaty provisions. (36)

53.      All of this means that even a consistent position of the Commission on the question of what constitutes an objective of ‘common interest’ could not prevent the General Court (or, as the case may be, this Court) from holding that that is not a necessary requirement in the application of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU. As for the case-law cited by the Republic of Austria, I propose to examine the question of whether any requirement that the aid must serve an objective of ‘common interest’ constitutes a departure from earlier case-law together with the question whether, for an interest to be considered a ‘common interest’, all Member States must agree on it at any given time. (37)

54.      With regard to the proper application of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU, that provision states that a State aid may be compatible with the common market if (i) it facilitates certain economic activities and (ii) such aid does not adversely affect trading conditions to an extent contrary to the common interest. The wording of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU itself does not give any indication in respect of any further requirements with which those ‘economic activities’ must comply. That provision stands in obvious contrast with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU, in that the latter provision clearly qualifies the aid as having ‘to promote the execution of an important project of common European interest’. (38)

55.      The General Court has nevertheless held in various cases, on which the Republic of Austria relies, that ‘in order to be compatible with the common market for the purposes of [Article 107(3)(c) TFEU], aid must pursue an objective in the common interest and must be necessary and proportionate for that purpose’. (39) As for the Commission, in its decision to initiate the investigation, it devoted 31 paragraphs to a consideration of the question of whether the aid pursued a common objective and, in the decision at issue, Section 9.2 dealt with the question and ended with the assessment that, ‘aid measures aimed at promoting nuclear energy pursue an objective of common interest …’. (40)

56.      Article 107(3)(c) TFEU is contained in Title VII, Chapter 1 of that Treaty, titled ‘Rules on competition’. As part of the competition chapter, that provision’s purpose is to avoid distortions of competition and negative effects on trade. Its position in the Treaty does not point towards the aim of giving the Commission additional competences by way, for example, of a quasi-audit power to ensure that Member States spend public moneys in an efficacious and cost-effective fashion.

57.      It follows, therefore, that there is no requirement that the aid has to fulfil any purposes beyond those specifically set out in Article 107(3)(c) TFEU. According to its wording and the position of the provision in the TFEU, aid of that kind, in order to be compatible with the Treaty, neither has to pursue an ‘objective of common interest’ nor an ‘objective of public interest’. It only has to ‘facilitate the development of certain economic activities’ and it must not ‘adversely affect trading conditions to an extent contrary to the common interest’. As such, the Republic of Austria’s argument that the General Court committed an error in law when it held that the aid must only serve a ‘public’ and not a ‘common’ interest cannot succeed because, in my view and contrary to the views of the General Court in the judgment under appeal, neither of those two criteria has to be fulfilled.

58.      Here, it is, perhaps, only necessary to add that the statements made by the General Court in a line of case-law from cases such as Mediaset v Commission (41) onwards, to the effect that any aid approved pursuant to Article 107(3)(c) TFEU must serve a ‘common interest’ objective, are, with respect, not correct in law. As I have just indicated, the actual text of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU does not contain such a requirement, even though Article 107(3)(b) TFEU (‘aid to promote an important project of common European interest …’) does.

59.      All that Article 107(3)(c) TFEU by contrast requires is that the aid ‘facilitate the development of certain economic activities or of certain economic areas’. It is true that the term ‘common interest’ is also contained in Article 107(3)(c) TFEU. That provision also contains a negative condition, namely, that the aid must ‘not adversely affect trading conditions to an extent contrary to the common interest’. There, the term ‘common interest’ is used in a quite different context. This negative condition serves to import requirements such as proportionality and necessity into the aid approval regime: it is clear from the wording and structure of the entire paragraph that it does not mean that for the purposes of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU the objective of the aid itself must serve a common interest. Had this been intended, the drafters of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU could easily have said so, just as they did in the case of Article 107(3)(b) TFEU.

60.      Should this Court not agree with the conclusion that Article 107(3)(c) TFEU does not contain any such further requirement, I think that it is clear in any event that any possible requirement that the aid for the Hinkley Point C project must actually serve an objective of ‘common interest’ has in fact been fulfilled. That is so, irrespective of whether that criterion is interpreted as meaning that it must be a purpose pursued by all Member States or not.

61.      Here it must first be recalled that all Member States of the European Union have also accepted and are bound by the provisions of the Euratom Treaty. Even though the Member States may not at present agree on the topic of nuclear energy and, for that precise reason, it may have proved impossible to integrate the Euratom into the EU, (42) the fact remains that the Euratom Treaty is virtually unchanged since its entry into force, while the Treaties governing the European Community and European Union have, of course, undergone fundamental changes.

62.      As I have indicated elsewhere in this Opinion, (43) the development of nuclear power stations — both now and at the time the Euratom Treaty was promulgated — is indeed a core objective of the Euratom Treaty, which, of course, remains a part of primary law of the Union. It follows that a clearly stated Treaty objective, irrespective in which of the founding Treaties, must be, almost by definition, capable of constituting an objective of common interest for the purposes of the application of the State aid rules.

63.      In saying this, I do not overlook the contention made by the Republic of Austria to the effect that had it understood that if the contemporary development of nuclear power stations could be assisted by means of State aid, it would never have accepted the Euratom Treaty. Yet this submission is, with respect, quite unrealistic, since, on any view, it is hard to interpret either Article 1 or Article 2(c) of the Euratom Treaty (provisions which I will consider in more detail presently) when read in conjunction with Article 106a(3) of the same Treaty as meaning anything else.

64.      It is, of course, true that each Member State is not obliged either to permit the operation of nuclear power plants or to provide financial support to such plants if they already exist on their own territory. That, however, is not quite the point. If a Member State takes steps towards ‘the … establishment and growth of nuclear industries’ (44) by building nuclear power plants, it is acting in accordance with an express provision (Article 1 in conjunction with Article 192 of the Euratom Treaty) of the primary law of the Union, which, again almost by definition, necessarily amounts to a matter of ‘common interest’ for the purposes of the State aid rules. The Republic of Austria contends, however, that the case-law regarding Article 107(3)(c) TFEU relies on a common, collective interest of the Member States or the Union respectively, which it says is necessarily absent by reason of its own opposition to the contemporary development of nuclear power. To that end, it relies on three decisions of the Court which it says support that position. As the Republic of Austria relies on the same passages of the same decisions for its assertion that it would constitute a departure from earlier case-law if this Court did not apply the criterion that the aid has to serve a common interest, I will deal with that matter at the same time.

65.      So far as the first of those decisions, the judgment in Philip Morris Holland v Commission, (45) is concerned, the Republic of Austria relies on the following passage (in paragraphs 24 to 26 of that judgment):

‘It should be borne in mind that the Commission has a discretion the exercise of which involves economic and social assessments which must be made in a Community context.

… The Commission’s assessment is based, for the most part, on the finding that the increase in the production of cigarettes envisaged would be exported to the other Member States … this did not permit the view that trading conditions would remain unaffected by this aid to an extent contrary to the common interest.’

66.      That passage is concerned with the application of the negative condition of Article 92(3)(c) EEC (now Article 107(3)(c) TFEU). The question presented here is whether the aid in question interferes with trade to an unacceptable degree and in that context the impact on the single market as a whole is naturally to be considered. The question which this Court is required to consider in this case — namely, whether the aid has to serve an objective of common interest — is, however, naturally anterior to that particular question. Even if one were to assume differently, in determining the issue of common interest, there is nothing in that judgment to suggest that it is necessary to consider the individual policy objectives of each Member State.

67.      The same can be said of the second decision relied on for this purpose, the judgment in Deufil v Commission. (46) In that case, the Commission had rejected a proposal for regional aid to develop a particular economic sector in Germany. The Court first reiterated (in paragraph 18 of that judgment) the statement made in paragraph 24 of the judgment in Philip Morris Holland v Commission. (47) The Court then went on to state:

‘The Commission in no way exceeded the limits of its discretion by considering that the granting of aid for an investment which increases production capacity in a sector in which there is already considerable overproduction is contrary to the common interest …’ (48)

68.      Those passages are, however, entirely unexceptionable in that the reiteration of the formula used in Philip Morris Holland v Commission (49) again concerns the application of the negative condition of Article 92(3)(c) EEC (now Article 107(3)(c) TFEU), as distinct from the separate question of ‘common interest’, which is a positive condition dealing with the question of whether the aid serves a purpose of common interest. While the Court admittedly stated that the aid ‘is contrary to the common interest’, that, however, must be seen in the specific context of another explicit criterion contained in Article 92(3)(c) EEC (now Article 107(3)(c) TFEU). In other words, the proposed State aid in question already failed the relevant test because aid for a sector in which there is already overproduction could not be said to ‘facilitate the development of a certain economic area’. There is, in any event, nothing in that passage which suggests that a common interest must be shared by all of the other Member States.

69.      The third decision, the judgment in Kingdom of Spain v Commission, (50) concerned a Spanish aid scheme for farmers located in the autonomous community of Extremadura. The Republic of Austria relies in particular on paragraph 67 of that judgment, which once again restates paragraph 24 of the judgment in Philip Morris Holland v. Commission. (51) The relevant passage from Kingdom of Spain v Commission (52) is in the following terms:

‘Nevertheless, the difference in wording between Article 87(3)(a) EC and Article 87(3)(c) EC cannot lead to the conclusion that the Commission should take no account of the Community interest when applying Article 87(3)(a), and that it must confine itself to verifying the specifically regional impact of the measures involved, without assessing their impact on the relevant market or markets in the Community as a whole. In such cases the Commission is bound not only to verify that the measures are such as to contribute effectively to the economic development of the regions concerned, but also to evaluate the impact of the aid on trade between Member States, and in particular to assess the sectorial repercussions they may have at Community level. As the Court has already held, Article 87(3) EC gives the Commission a discretion the exercise of which involves economic and social assessments which must be made in a Community context’.

70.      But it is  clear that that passage once again relates to the quite separate issue which arises under the negative condition contained in Article 107(3)(c) TFEU (formerly Article 87(3)(c) EC), namely, that there must be no impact of the aid in question on the relevant market or markets in the Community (now Union) as a whole to an extent that is contrary to the common interest. That, however, has no bearing at all on either the distinct issue of whether the aid must serve an objective of common interest or be supported by all the Member States before it can qualify as an object of common interest.

71.      It follows that none of those three judgments is an authority for the Republic of Austria’s assertion that it is a necessary requirement for the purposes of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU that the aid pursues an objective of common interest. Nor do they state that a common interest is an interest shared by all Member States.

72.      It must also be borne in mind that all Member States have signed, ratified and acceded to the Euratom Treaty. It follows that all of the Member States must be understood, as a matter of law, to have given their general consent to the development of new nuclear power plants. It is true that there are Member States — such as the Republic of Austria — that have decided that they will not facilitate or even permit the development of new nuclear power plants in their own territory. However, by accepting the objectives of that treaty, they have thereby signified their unqualified acceptance — in principle, at least — of the right of other Member States to develop nuclear power plants on their own territories should they wish to do so.

73.      It follows, therefore, on any view of the legal issues involved, that the development of nuclear power plants is an objective in the common interest for the purposes of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU to which, as it happens, all the Member States have — if only by reason of their acceptance of the Euratom Treaty — consented. Thus, even on the assumption (contrary to my own view) that Article 107(3)(c) TFEU can only be applied if a State aid pursues an objective of common interest, the General Court has not committed any error of law. I would also add — if only for the sake of completeness — that the development of nuclear power plants also constitutes an objective of public interest, as opposed to one of private interest.

(c)    The construction of nuclear power stations is not a promotion of nuclear energy covered by the Euratom Treaty

74.      The Republic of Austria further challenges the General Court’s finding in paragraph 97 of the judgment under appeal that, having regard to Article 1(2) and Article 2(c) of the Euratom Treaty, the United Kingdom was entitled to create incentives for the creation of new nuclear energy generating capacities. By contrast, the Republic of Austria claims, relying on the wording of Article 2(c) of the Euratom Treaty, that that Treaty does not cover the promotion of the building of further nuclear power plants or the replacement of existing nuclear power plants by more modern, already developed, technologies. In that context, it may first be observed that Article 1 of the Euratom Treaty declares that the key object of the Treaty is to create ‘the conditions necessary for the speedy establishment and growth of nuclear industries’. Article 2(c) then provides that in order ‘to perform its task’ Euratom shall ‘facilitate investment and ensure, particularly by encouraging ventures on the part of undertakings, the establishment of the basic installations necessary for the development of nuclear energy in the Community’. Beyond that, Articles 40 and 41 of the Euratom Treaty, when read in conjunction with point No. 11 of Annex II to that Treaty, also underline the fact that the investment in nuclear reactors is envisaged by that Treaty. Finally, according to Article 192 of the Euratom Treaty, Member States shall facilitate the achievement of the Community’s tasks.

75.      Perhaps the first thing to say about those general provisions is that they necessarily presuppose the existence of nuclear power stations in at least some of the Member States, for without nuclear power plants there can be no nuclear energy, and without nuclear energy there would be little point in having Euratom or, for that matter, the Euratom Treaty.

76.      Second, the Member States obviously intended that the Euratom Treaty would be a living document, capable of organic development and adaptation to contemporary circumstances, within, of course, the four corners of that Treaty. That in itself is, I think, sufficient to dispose of the argument advanced by the Republic of Austria to the effect that those provisions of the Euratom Treaty do not cover either the building of further nuclear power plants or the replacement and modernisation of ageing plants by more modern, already developed, technologies.

77.      If that argument were correct, it would mean, for example, that the Euratom Treaty would have applied only during the first phase of the construction of nuclear power plants during the 1960s and 1970s. It would also follow that the Euratom Treaty would have no application to modern circumstances, as that first wave of nuclear plants would gradually be decommissioned, modernised and replaced. Yet the drafters of the Euratom Treaty obviously intended that it would have indefinite application. There is no indication at all that it was supposed simply to have a finite scope of application confined, essentially, to the first wave of nuclear power plant construction.

78.      Third, in any event, that argument of the Republic of Austria is not supported by the actual language of the Euratom Treaty itself. After all, Article 1 declares that one of the objectives of the Treaty is to create the conditions necessary ‘for the speedy establishment and growth of nuclear industries’. In the same vein, Article 2(c) of that Treaty declares that one of the tasks of Euratom is to ensure, ‘particularly by encouraging ventures on the part of undertakings, the establishment of the basic installations necessary for the development of nuclear energy in the Community’. Those provisions quite obviously contemplate the growth and development of the nuclear industry, including — as Article 2(c) makes clear — through the involvement of private undertakings for that purpose. The argument to the contrary advanced by the Republic of Austria at the oral hearing on 28 January 2020 to the effect that Article 2(c) of the Euratom Treaty did not bear that meaning at all, but was instead concerned with the possible development of new technologies is, with respect, quite unrealistic.

79.      Finally, it is also again necessary to point to Article 194(2) TFEU in this context. That provision must, of course, be read in conjunction with the Euratom Treaty. As I have already indicated, the second subparagraph of Article 194(2) TFEU provides that the general competence of the Union in the field of energy will not prejudice the right of a Member State ‘to determine the conditions for exploiting its energy resources, its choice between different energy sources and the general structure of its energy supply’.

80.      It is perfectly clear from that provision that the right in principle of each Member State to choose its own energy mix — whether it be fossil fuels, renewables such as solar energy and wind power or, as here, nuclear power — is, for all intents and purposes, inviolate. As the United Kingdom argued in its submissions, it has elected to support nuclear energy as a ‘reliable, low carbon element within its wider energy mix’.

81.      All of this reinforces the conclusion that the objects and competences of the Euratom Treaty may be fairly interpreted as extending to the construction of modern nuclear power plants by the Member States, and not simply those plants which were envisaged or projected at the time when the Euratom Treaty was promulgated. The general tenor and approach of the General Court in the judgment under appeal is perfectly consistent with this interpretation of those provisions.

(d)    When determining whether aid measures promote an objective of common interest, the General Court should also have had regard to other objectives of the TFEU

82.      In paragraph 517 of the judgment under appeal, which is challenged by the Republic of Austria, the General Court held that, irrespective of whether those principles had to be taken into account by the Commission, it would be inconsistent with Article 106a(3) of the Euratom Treaty to interpret the principle of protection of the environment, the precautionary principle, the ‘polluter pays’ principle and the principle of sustainability in such a way as to preclude the grant of State aid in respect of the construction or operation of a nuclear power plant.

83.      The Republic of Austria, on the other hand, argues that, if — in spite of Article 106a(3) of the Euratom Treaty — one applies Article 107 TFEU to nuclear power, one must also apply other principles of EU law, such as environmental protection requirements, which encompass the protection of health, referred to in Article 37 of the Charter and Article 11 TFEU. Furthermore, the Republic of Austria argues that Article 106a(3) of the Euratom Treaty should not be relied on to justify State aid because that provision primarily deals with conflicts regarding the legal basis for legislative action, a conflict which does not exist in the present case. Those arguments invite the following response.

84.      First, contrary to what is the case for the area of State aid, the Euratom Treaty deals with environmental issues in Chapter 3 of Title II, entitled ‘Health and Safety’. (53) Those provisions take precedence according to Article 106a(3) of the Euratom Treaty and leave no room for the application of other principles of EU law in that area. (54)

85.      Second, the fact that a provision might have been primarily conceived to deal with conflicts regarding the legal basis for measures does not exclude its application to other questions. This is so, particularly, as neither the wording of Article 106a(3) of the Euratom Treaty, nor its context — it was moved from Part six of the EC Treaty dealing with general and final provisions to the chapter in the Euratom Treaty, headed ‘Application of certain provisions of the Treaty on European Union and of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union’ — bear out such a limitation in its application.

86.      Third, Article 106a(3) of the Euratom Treaty is not the only provision that has to be taken into account when it comes to the energy supply of the Member States. If the Commission were given a broader competence to assess State aid decisions made by Member States according to principles other than those set out in Article 107 TFEU, that would clearly limit the Member States’ autonomy in that area. The question then is whether the Treaties actually allow for that. The area of ‘Energy’ is dealt with in Title XXI of the TFEU. According to Article 4(2)(i) TFEU, that is an area of shared competence between the Union and the Member States. Article 194(1) TFEU and the first subparagraph of Article 194(2) TFEU oblige the European Parliament and the Council to establish the measures necessary to achieve certain aims related to the energy sector ‘in the context of the establishment and functioning of the internal market and with regard for the need to preserve and improve the environment’. As I have already pointed out, Article 194(2) TFEU also states clearly that ‘such measures shall not affect a Member State’s right to determine … its choice between different energy sources …’. (55)

87.      What emerges from this is that the Member States’ room for manoeuvre when it comes to their energy supply must be preserved and acknowledged. To this extent, Article 194(2) TFEU represents an important rebalancing of the role of the individual Member States vis-à-vis the Union in the field of energy policy. Therefore, for those reasons alone it does not seem appropriate to allow the Commission to consider Union objectives beyond the protection of the common market specifically raised in Article 107(3)(c) TFEU in its assessment of a State aid in the energy sector. (56)

88.      Nor does the case-law of the Court and the General Court, even in areas outside the energy sector, require or empower the Commission to do so.

89.      The specific principles raised by the Republic of Austria, which, according to it, ought already to have been taken into account at the time of the assessment as to whether an objective of common interest was being pursued by the aid measure, are the protection of the environment, the precautionary principle, the ‘polluter pays’ principle and the principle of sustainability. However, as the General Court pointed out correctly in paragraph 515 of the judgment under appeal, the Commission would only have had to take those principles into account if they had actually been pursued by the United Kingdom with its aid measure. (57) In that case, they could have been examined by the Commission by reference to whether the measures were adequate to reach that goal. (58) In the present case however, the aim pursued was to facilitate the production of nuclear energy and the Commission, according to Article 107(3)(c) TFEU, only had to assess whether the measure adversely affected trading conditions to an extent contrary to the common interest. (59)

90.      Nor does the following case-law alter that conclusion: the Court has held that, when the Commission applies the State aid procedure, it is required, in accordance with the general scheme of the Treaty, to ensure that provisions governing State aid are applied consistently with specific provisions other than those relating to State aid and, therefore, to assess the compatibility of the aid in question with those specific provisions, where the aspects of aid are so inextricably linked to the object of the aid that it is impossible to evaluate them separately. (60) In the present case, the existence of such an inextricable link was, as the Commission points out, not raised by the Republic of Austria; nor does it exist. The principles raised by the Republic of Austria, namely, the protection of the environment, the precautionary principle, the ‘polluter pays’ principle and the principle of sustainability, can be assessed separately and, should it prove necessary, in other proceedings. (61) It bears mentioning that, according to paragraph 150 of the Commission’s response, the Republic of Austria did not attack the further decision on the pricing methodology for nuclear waste contracts which were also considered to be State aid and declared to be compatible with the internal market in accordance with Article 107(3)(c) TFEU. (62)

91.      The General Court did not commit any error of law in finding that it did not have to have regard to other objectives of the Treaties in determining whether the aid measures promote an objective of common interest.

2.      Second plea in law: Article 107(3)(c) TFEU was applied incorrectly because the relevant sector of the economy was not defined correctly and the requirement of market failure has not been applied

(a)    Summary of the Republic of Austria’s arguments

92.      In paragraphs 105, 139 and 140 and 144 of the judgment under appeal, the General Court held that the promotion of nuclear energy constituted the relevant economic activity for the purposes of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU and that the development of Hinkley Point C constitutes such a promotion of nuclear energy. In paragraphs 151 and 240 of the judgment under appeal, the General Court held that the existence of a market failure may be a relevant factor for declaring State aid compatible with the internal market, but that the absence of market failure does not necessarily mean that the conditions laid down in Article 107(3)(c) TFEU are not satisfied and that, even if there were no market failure, the United Kingdom’s intervention was in fact necessary to achieve the development of Hinkley Point C.

93.      By its second plea in law, the Republic of Austria contends that the General Court erred in law in three respects. First, it is said that it failed to recognise that the decision at issue does not identify, for the purposes of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU, the economic activity in question. In this respect, the Republic of Austria also claims that the General Court did not fulfil its obligations according to the second paragraph of Article 296 TFEU to adequately state its factual and legal reasons regarding the economic activity that is furthered by the aid for Hinkley Point C. Second, it says that the General Court misidentified the relevant economic activity, as the appropriate economic activity is the production of energy and not the production of nuclear energy.Third, it contends that the General Court failed to acknowledge that market failure is a legal prerequisite of any finding of necessity under Article 107(3)(c) TFEU.

(b)    Assessment

94.      So far as the question of failure of identification of the economic activity to be pursued by the aid is concerned, the General Court not only rejected the argument that there had been an inadequate statement of reasons, (63) but the entire decision at issue proceeds on the basis that what is at issue is the generation of electricity through the use of nuclear power and is replete with references of that kind. Many examples could be cited for this purpose, but it is probably sufficient to point to recital 358 of the decision at issue, which states ‘the Commission therefore concludes that the [Contract for Difference] for [Hinkley Point] establishes the conditions for the exercise of the activity of electricity generation through the use of nuclear technology …’.

95.      In my view, therefore, the General Court did not commit any error of law when it stated in paragraph 139 of the judgment under appeal that it ‘must reject the Republic of Austria’s argument that the Commission failed to specify which economic activity within the meaning of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU was intended to be promoted by the measures at issue’. In that paragraph, the General Court relied on recital 392 of the decision at issue, which constitutes another example of where the economic activity was clearly identified. In so far as the Republic of Austria raises that argument with a view to having the Commission’s decision re-examined, that is obviously not admissible. (64)

96.      Nor was the General Court’s own statement of reasons insufficient. It should first be pointed out that the applicant’s reliance on the second paragraph of Article 296 TFEU is erroneous. According to the established case-law, the obligation on the General Court, according to Article 53 in conjunction with Article 36 of the Statute of the Court of Justice, and Article 117(m) of the Rules of Procedure of the General Court, to state reasons does not require the General Court to provide an account which follows exhaustively and one by one all the arguments put forward by the parties to the case. The General Court’s reasoning may therefore be implicit on condition that it enables the persons concerned to know why the General Court has not upheld their arguments and provides the Court of Justice with sufficient material for it to exercise its power of review. (65)

97.      In paragraphs 155 and 156 of the judgment under appeal, the General Court recalled the reasons that the Commission gave for its assessment and which show the specific nature of the production of nuclear power as an economic activity. The General Court thus clearly fulfilled the standard set out above.

98.      By its second point, the Republic of Austria contends that the General Court should have determined that the relevant economic activity was the production of electricity and not the production of nuclear energy. That party argues that, for the purposes of the application of the State Aid rules, it is the ultimate product — that is, electricity — which counts.

99.      I cannot accept this. The entire exercise involved in the application of the State aid rules is to define the relevant economic activity in order to assess whether the aid in question is necessary to assist economic development. One must therefore ask whether the State aid will assist with regard to the development of nuclear energy, as distinct from electricity production in general. There was abundant evidence before the Commission — as the General Court found (66) — that the market was either unwilling, or even incapable, of financing the Hinkley Point C project absent the guarantees and other forms of aid provided by the United Kingdom. It is irrelevant for present purposes that there might not be market failure in respect of other forms of electricity production. Here, yet again, the right of each Member State to choose its own energy mix under Article 194(2) TFEU must also be borne in mind.

100. In so far as the Republic of Austria relies on paragraph 54 et seq. of the General Court’s order in Greenpeace Energy and Others v Commission, (67) it must be pointed out that in that case the General Court dealt with the parties’ right to bring an action according to the fourth paragraph of Article 263 TFEU, which is to be considered pursuant to the criteria set out in Plaumann v Commission. (68) For that purpose, the General Court dealt with the question of whether there is a competitive market situation between the recipients of the aid and the claimants. That assessment aims at determining whether the claimants were affected by the aid. That, however, is a slightly different matter from determining what constitutes an ‘economic activity’ for the purposes of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU. The economic activity is determined in order to establish a reference point for a proportionality test, where the necessity of the aid for the facilitation of the economic activity is ascertained, and, if that aid is necessary, whether it has the incentive effect for that purpose. The competitive market situation, on the other hand, only becomes relevant when looking at the further criterion of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU of whether the aid adversely affects trading conditions to an extent contrary to the common interest. (69) For that purpose, the General Court indeed relied on the whole electricity market rather than on the mere ‘economic activity’, which is the generation of electricity through the use of nuclear power. (70)

101. For those reasons the General Court did not err in law when it considered the production of nuclear energy to be the relevant economic activity for the purposes of the positive criterion of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU, namely whether the aid facilitates the development of certain economic activities.

102. The third argument under this heading is that the General Court should have considered market failure to be a relevant criterion for the application of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU. Contrary to what the General Court found in its decision, the Republic of Austria argues that the Commission had identified a market failure, although, according to the former party, due to the wrong definition of the market, that finding was incorrect.

103. Once again, I find myself unable to accept that argument. For a start, the Commission found that there had been a market failure because it proceeded on the premiss that ordinarily functioning capital markets will not finance the construction of new nuclear power stations given the extremely long timelines involved and the perceived political risk associated with such a project. (71)

104. Next, it should be borne in mind that the General Court has, to date — correctly, in my view — rejected the suggestion that the identification of market failure is a vital element in the Article 107(3)(c) TFEU assessment. (72) I would not wish to be misunderstood on this point: the existence of market failure may, of course, often provide the most compelling evidence of the necessity for aid within the meaning of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU. What is, however, necessary for this analysis is not the existence of a market failure in and of itself, (73) but rather whether the State aid in question would facilitate certain economic activities. (74)

3.      Third plea in law: whether the General Court’s control of the application of the proportionality test was incorrect

(a)    Summary of the Republic of Austria’s arguments

105. In paragraphs 405 and 413 of the judgment under appeal, the General Court assessed the effects of the aid measure, namely, that Hinkley Point C can be built, together with the implications of this, on the baseload electricity supply in the United Kingdom. It also found that the necessary capacity could not realistically be provided by wind energy. In paragraph 507 of the same judgment, it found that the United Kingdom was entitled to maintain nuclear energy in its energy mix. In paragraph 506, the General Court found no reason to question the Commission’s finding that the risks of distortion of competition was limited. In paragraphs 470 and 499, that Court stated that the aid measures do not discriminate excessively against other technologies. Finally, in paragraph 515 et seq., the General Court held that the Commission was not obliged to take into account the principles mentioned in point 82 of this Opinion. Those findings are challenged by the Republic of Austria.

106. Furthermore, the Republic of Austria contends that the General Court erred in the manner in which the proportionality of the measure was assessed. Specifically, it claims that, first, the General Court should have assessed the proportionality of that measure by reference to the electricity market as a whole. Second, the General Court should have recognised that the present proceedings involved what was in substance a test case concerning the proportionality of new nuclear projects in general. Any possible distortion of competition should, therefore, have been assessed by reference to that consideration. Third, one consequence of the judgment of the General Court will be to grant nuclear producers an ongoing advantage at the expense of other energy producers. Fourth, the General Court failed to balance the negative effects of nuclear energy (including the long-term costs associated with waste disposal) against its potential benefits.

(b)    Assessment

107. This plea refers to the proportionality test which is the negative condition contained in Article 107(3)(c) TFEU according to which an aid measure must not only be necessary to facilitate the development of an economic activity, it must do so without adversely affecting trading conditions to an extent contrary to the common interest.

108. So far as the proportionality argument with respect to the electricity market as a whole is concerned, this in truth appears to be a variant of the second part of the second plea in law, namely, that the relevant market is the wider electricity market as distinct from the nuclear energy production market. In this context, however, it is irrelevant that electricity could have been produced by other means.

109. This leads back to the fundamental point that, pursuant to Article 194(2) TFEU, the United Kingdom was entitled to choose its various sources of energy and that it opted to have nuclear energy as part of that energy mix. The Commission was therefore obliged, by reason of Article 194(2) TFEU, to have regard to the proportionality of the measure at issue designed to give effect to that policy choice, namely, the production of nuclear energy at Hinkley Point C. It cannot be said, therefore, that the Commission’s proportionality assessment was impermissibly narrow or that the General Court erred in law in that regard.

110. So far as the test case argument is concerned, the Republic of Austria relies on section 6 of the Commission Notice on the notion of State aid as referred to in Article 107(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. (75) I confess that I found this reference somewhat puzzling, because there is nothing in section 6 (or, for that matter, elsewhere) of the Commission Notice dealing with the notion of test cases. The Commission Notice only deals with the question of whether a measure constitutes State aid within the meaning of Article 107(1) TFEU. According to its second recital, ‘it does not concern the compatibility of State aid with the internal market pursuant to Article 107(2) and 3 and Article 106(2) of the Treaty, which is for the Commission to assess.’ As such the Commission Notice is entirely irrelevant so far as any assessment of the proportionality of a measure for the purposes of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU is concerned. Accordingly, it cannot be said that the Notice offers any real guidance as to the principles to be applied in respect of such an assessment.

111. I am equally unpersuaded by the Republic of Austria’s reliance on the decision of this Court in Eventech. (76) That case concerned the question of whether a regulatory decision permitting certain public transport vehicles involved in the carriage of passengers to use the bus lanes on London’s streets while excluding others could amount to a form of State aid. In the course of its judgment, the Court observed that for that purpose ‘it is necessary, not to establish that the aid has a real effect on trade between Member States and that competition is actually being distorted, but only to examine whether that aid is liable to affect such trade and distort competition’. (77)

112. I cannot help feeling that rather too much is being made of that admittedly very important decision dealing with the potential impact of the State aid in question. Specifically, there is nothing at all in that judgment to suggest that the assessment whether a State aid is compatible with the internal market must be made other than by reference to the individual aid involved in the contested measure at hand. All of this means that there is nothing in Eventech (78) to support the wider contention that the Commission should have regard to the question of whether the granting of aid(s) of that kind might distort competition in general.

113. Nor can I accept the argument that the effect of that decision will be to favour nuclear power operators at the expense of other forms of electricity production. (79) It must be recalled that each notification for the grant or alteration of State aid must be judged on its own individual merits by reference to Article 107 TFEU.

114. In any event, it is perfectly obvious that the barriers to entry to the nuclear power market are quite different to those of other forms of electricity production: those specific barriers include the political risk associated with the opposition to nuclear power, the enormous capital costs involved in the construction of those plants and the particular costs associated with the secure storage of spent nuclear fuel. As I have already noted, the disputed aid measure in the present case seeks to address those particular difficulties by, for example, having special arrangements designed to deal with the particular and specific political risks associated with the project. Precisely because those provisions are aimed at addressing those particular risks, the suggestion that the decision at issue somehow involves a form of discrimination against other forms of electricity production is, with respect, both contrived and unrealistic.

115. Furthermore, the Republic of Austria contends that the General Court was wrong to hold that it did not need to take account of the extent to which the measures at issue were detrimental to key environmental principles, such as the precautionary principle, the ‘polluter pays’ principle and the sustainability principle. (80) Quite apart from the fact that the Republic of Austria did not go beyond the level of assertion as far as alleged environmental damage is concerned, one should also observe that Article 107 TFEU is located within Title VII, which prescribes common rules on competition, taxation and the approximation of laws. The task of the Commission, therefore, is, as Article 107(2) and (3) TFEU makes clear, simply to assess whether the State measure in question ‘may be considered to be compatible with the internal market’.

116. The internal market is itself defined by Article 26(2) TFEU as an area ‘without internal frontiers in which the free movement of goods, person, services and capital is ensured in accordance with the provision of the Treaties’. While it is true that, as the General Court observed in Castelnou Energía v Commission, (81) environmental policies must be integrated into definition and implementation of EU policies, the fact remains that, as that Court also observed in that case, ‘protection of the environment does not constitute, per se, one of the components of that internal market’.  

117. It is thus clear that the task envisaged for the Commission by Article 107 TFEU is a more limited one than that urged by the Republic of Austria. That task is essentially to assess the compatibility of the aid in question with the rules on competition and the internal market. However, the Commission is not given the task of making an assessment in that context of whether the specific aid measure complies with EU law in general, above and beyond the specific requirements of the internal market and the competition rules.

118. This is perhaps especially true in the context of matters such as compliance with environmental rules, since that is a task which, in the first instance at least, is allocated to the relevant authorities in each of the Member States whose responsibility it is to decide on whether the project in question should receive the appropriate permission from a planning and environmental perspective. In this respect, I agree with the statement by the General Court when it stated in BUPA and Others v Commission, (82) that the Commission ‘is required to make an assessment by reference to the relevant provisions which are not, strictly speaking, covered by the law on aid only where certain aspects of the aid in issue are so closely linked to its object that any failure on their part to comply with those provisions would necessarily affect the compatibility of the aid with the common market’.

119. It follows, therefore, that the General Court did not err in its assessment that the Commission was not obliged to consider the potential environmental impact of Hinkley Point C in its consideration of whether the aid was compatible with the internal market for the purposes of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU.

4.      Fourth plea in law: whether the aid constitutes operating aid and whether such operating aid is inadmissible

(a)    Summary of the Republic of Austria’s arguments

120. In paragraphs 612 and 613 of the judgment under appeal, the General Court stated that in a case in which the Community guidelines on State aid for environmental protection (83) were applicable, there was a requirement to classify the aid at issue with respect to whether it was investment aid or operating aid. It held that, however, that was not necessary in the circumstances.

121. The Republic of Austria challenges those findings and submits that parts of the aid measures constitute operating aid which is not designed to incentivise investment in the plant, but was rather a form of aid designed in essence to subsidise the operation of the plant. It further contends that operating aid is at best, in exceptional cases, compatible with the common market. The Republic of Austria points out that, on a functioning product market that provides the product ‘electricity’ in the necessary quantities, operating aid is inadmissible because it distorts competition to an extent contrary to the common interest.

122. The General Court nonetheless agreed with the Commission that the aid in question had to be regarded as equivalent to investment aid, since it allowed NNBG to commit to investment in the construction of Hinkley Point C. Specifically, it concluded that, from a financial modelling point of view, the net present value of the ‘strike price’ payments could be regarded as the equivalent of a lump sum payment which would allow NNBG to cover the construction costs.

(b)    Assessment

123. The arguments of the Republic of Austria were rejected by the General Court, with that Court observing in paragraph 583 of the judgment under appeal:

‘… There is nothing to preclude an aid measure which pursues a public interest objective, which is appropriate to and necessary for the attainment of that goal, which does not adversely affect trading conditions to an extent contrary to the common interest and which therefore satisfies the requirements of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU from being declared compatible with the internal market under that provision, irrespective of whether it must be characterised as investment aid or operating aid. It should, moreover, be recalled that even operating aid may be declared compatible with the internal market if those conditions are satisfied (see, to that effect, judgment of 9 June 2016, Magic Mountain Kletterhallen and Others v Commission, T‑162/13, not published, EU:T:2016:341, paragraphs 116 and 117).’

124. Quite apart from the fact that that statement was not challenged by the Republic of Austria, which might render this plea ineffective, the fourth plea is also unfounded. The Commission had also found that the measures pursued a public interest objective, namely, the creation of new nuclear energy generation capacity, which could not be achieved within a reasonable time without State intervention. In those circumstances, the General Court found that those measures ‘cannot be regarded as aid that is limited to maintaining the status quo’ and that, on the contrary, ‘according to the Commission’s findings, without them, no investment in new nuclear energy generating capacity would be made within a reasonable time’. (84) The General Court also held — correctly, in my view — that the Contracts for Difference were, in essence, a price stabilisation mechanism designed ‘to guarantee stable revenues for a sufficiently long period of time to encourage the undertaking concerned to invest the funds necessary to build that new capacity’. It was not, moreover, comparable to the traditional form of aid, which operated as a non-repayable subsidy. On the contrary, it rather sought to incentivise investment by guaranteeing a reliable and stable price. (85)

125. One might add that the Contract for Difference procedure is inherently proportionate inasmuch as it provides for what might be termed a ‘clawback’ mechanism, in that it allows for the ‘clawback’ of funds should the reference price exceed the strike price. All of this reinforces the point that the Contract for Difference is to be designed to ensure a stable revenue price for investors. That price is pitched at a level which ensures greater confidence for investors that they can achieve a target return on their investment over time. While the strike price is designed to allow for a fair margin in favour of those investors, the clawback mechanism also ensures that investors do not receive any windfall bonus in the event that the reference price exceeds the strike price.

126. The General Court also held — again, in my view, correctly — that the Commission was, in the circumstances, entitled to have regard to the fact that the strike price took into account not only the construction costs in relation to Hinkley Point C, but also the operating costs. The General Court took the view — once again, I think, correctly — that those costs influenced ‘the profitability of the project and therefore [had] an impact on the amount which the strike price must attain in order to trigger the decision to invest in new nuclear energy generating capacity’. (86)

127. As I have just indicated, for my part, I can only agree with that analysis. At the risk of repetition: the key point in respect of the compatibility of any aid with the internal market for the purposes of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU is, fundamentally, whether such aid leads to the development of certain economic activities which would not otherwise take place. There cannot, I think, be any ex ante distinction between investment aid, on the one hand, and operating aid, on the other. Not only is such a distinction not warranted by a consideration of the actual text of Article 107 TFEU itself, but, in any event, such a distinction would be simplistic and would merely lend itself to circumvention by the use of contrived accounting techniques.

128. One may naturally agree that the fact that a contested measure amounts to operating aid may, in some circumstances, be indicative of the fact that the aid is simply designed to reinforce the status quo. As the General Court itself remarked, aid of that kind cannot, of course, ‘meet the requirements of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU’, because such aid does not ‘facilitate development within the meaning of that provision’. (87)

129. Yet the situation in the present case is entirely different and — it might be even more accurate to say — is, in some respects, exceptional. It is true that, as the Republic of Austria has observed, some elements of the strike price are not confined to pure construction costs per se, but also include specific costs associated with nuclear energy production, including the cost of managing spent fuel. Those costs are nonetheless investments costs, which NNBG must necessarily incur if the plant is to be operational.

130. Nor is the situation changed by the fact that the strike price mechanism provides for the reopening of the relevant calculations after periods of 15 and 25 years respectively. It must be recalled that, as the General Court observed, the operating costs on which the strike price was originally calculated were required to be estimated ex ante and, by definition, the operation life of Hinkley Point C will be very long — perhaps up to 60 years. (88) The reopening mechanism is thus intended to mitigate the risks inherent in such a long-term contract for both parties in case there is a material difference (either way) between the strike price and the reference price. None of this can take from the fact that that pricing mechanism is inherently linked to the investment decision in relation to Hinkley Point C itself.

131. There is, moreover, nothing in this Court’s decisions in either Italy v Commission (89) or, for that matter, Freistaat Sachsen und Land Sachsen-Anhalt v Commission, (90) to support the argument of the Republic of Austria. The former case concerned aid to certain producers which was to assist in the fortification of the alcohol strength of certain wines. The Court simply upheld the decision of the Commission, which had held that there was no public interest objective to support the grant of aid for the purposes of Article 107(3) TFEU.

132. The same is true of Freistaat Sachsen und Land Sachsen-Anhalt v Commission,(91) where the aid in question was designed to promote the training of employees at a new courier delivery centre at Leipzig-Halle airport. In that case, the Commission had found that the training would take place in any event, so that the aid was not in any sense vital to support the economic area concerned. It is scarcely surprising that that decision was ultimately upheld by this Court.

133. The General Court accordingly concluded in the judgment under appeal that the Commission’s decision to approve the aid in question on the basis that it supported investment in a nuclear energy project which might not otherwise have taken place was within its margin of discretion for the purposes of Article 107(3) TFEU. It arrived at that conclusion even though some of the aid related to operating costs, albeit that price certainty in relation to those operating costs had also been found by the Commission to be a key part of the incentives for investment in the project. For my part, it is sufficient to say that the reasoning of the General Court in respect of this plea in law discloses no legal error.

5.      Fifth plea in law: whether there was an insufficient determination of the aid elements and infringement of the Guarantee Notice

(a)    Summary of the Republic of Austria’s arguments

134. In paragraph 251 et seq. of the judgment under appeal, the General Court held that it cannot be inferred from recitals 23 and 25 and Articles 7 and 8 of Regulation No 651/2014 that only aid measures the grant equivalent of which has been quantified may be declared compatible with the internal market. Nor can it be inferred from other secondary law that aid measures have to quantify precisely the grant equivalent arising from them. The General Court further held, in paragraph 309 of that judgment, that, irrespective of whether the Guarantee Notice was applied, the Republic of Austria’s arguments regarding the duration of the guarantee cannot succeed. It held, in paragraph 338 of that judgment, that the evidence submitted did not demonstrate that EDF was experiencing financial difficulty.

135. Under this heading, the Republic of Austria relies on two points First, it contends that the aid elements have ‘not been sufficiently determined’ in the decision at issue. In this context, the Republic of Austria argues that that failure amounts to an infringement of Commission Guidelines and Regulations concerning State aid rules that should have been applied in the present case according to the principles of equal treatment and non-discrimination. The Republic of Austria claims that the insufficient determination of aid elements in any case renders it impossible to carry out the correct proportionality assessment and that the aids in case of a shutdown will invariably lead to an over-compensation once they exceed an amount payable in case of an expropriation.

136. In this context, it advances another general argument related to the applicability of Article 1(c) of Regulation 2015/1589 in conjunction with Article 4(1) of Regulation No 794/2004. The Republic of Austria submits that the application of those provisions presupposes that the original budget of the aid can be determined because a notification under Article 4(1) of Regulation No 794/2004 depends on whether the original budget is increased by more than 20%, a calculation that is not possible if the original budget is undetermined.

137. Second, the Republic of Austria considers that the Commission ought to have applied the Guarantee Notice. That omission, according to the Republic of Austria, is not admissible, as the Commission is bound by its own guidelines and notices and it ought to have made all determinations under that notice. The Republic of Austria points to what it claims are the insufficient determinations of the duration of the guarantee, arguing in this context, that the General Court infringed point 4.2 of the Guarantee Notice by not calculating the ‘cash grant equivalent’ of the guarantees.

138. According to points 3.2.a and 4.1.a of that notice, the Commission ought further to have checked, of its own accord, whether the borrower was in financial difficulty. This is of importance, as State aid to companies in distress is generally inadmissible. According to the Republic of Austria, the fact that the General Court did not recognise that mistake constitutes a further error of law.

(b)    Assessment

139. As regards the Republic of Austria’s argument that the aid elements have not been properly determined and that that constitutes an infringement of a series of the Commission Guidelines and Regulations concerning State aid rules that should have been applied in the present case according to the principles of equal treatment and non-discrimination, the General Court set out the requirements for the application of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU in paragraphs 248 and 249 of the judgment under appeal. As the Commission was able to assess the aid according to those requirements without determining further aid elements, the Commission did not commit any error and neither did the General Court in accepting that. (92) As becomes clear from the detailed analyses of the General Court in paragraphs 251 to 255 of the judgment under appeal, there are reasons specific to the mentioned guidelines and regulations why aid amounts must be quantified. In many cases, this is due to a standardised approach that is neither appropriate nor necessary when Article 107(3)(c) TFEU is applied directly.

140. In so far as the Republic of Austria claims that due to the lack of determination of aid elements, the proportionality test could not be carried out correctly, the Republic of Austria basically attempts to reintroduce its arguments already raised under the fourth part of its third plea in law. As I have observed already, the proportionality test under Article 107(3)(c) TFEU only serves to determine whether the aid adversely affects trading conditions to an extent contrary to the common interest. The Republic of Austria does not even argue that aid elements that it considers indeterminate, such as the cost of waste disposal and ultimate storage or the exact terms of the Secretary of State Agreement, have such an effect. For that reason, the Republic of Austria’s argument in this respect cannot succeed.

141. As for the Republic of Austria’s argument regarding possible problems in applying Article 1(c) of Regulation No 2015/1589 in conjunction with Article 4(1) of Regulation No 794/2004, it is unclear which part of the judgment under appeal is being challenged. (93) Quite apart from that flaw, it does not serve the Republic of Austria’s argument in any way. The Republic of Austria claims that it cannot understand how the aid measures at issue in this case can be reconciled with the abovementioned provisions. In fact, they do not have to be. Article 4 of Regulation No 794/2004 only deals with exceptions/simplifications to the notification procedure. If those requirements — for example that the increase in the budget of an authorised aid scheme does not exceed 20% — cannot be shown, the measure will simply be considered a ‘new aid’ and will have to be notified with the standard notification form, rather than a simplified notification form, according to Article 2 of and Annex I to Regulation 2015/1589. (94) Contrary to what the Republic of Austria claims, even if the non-determination of the initial budget might prevent the United Kingdom from notifying an increase in a simplified form, it certainly neither exempts nor hinders the United Kingdom from notifying an ‘increase in the budget’ as a ‘new aid’.

142. The fact that any subsequent amendment to the measures has to be notified is also reflected in paragraph 266 of the judgment under appeal. There, the General Court underlined that the Commission’s authorisation decision only covers the project that was notified to it. That finding was not attacked by the Republic of Austria. As a result, the Republic of Austria’s arguments cannot succeed.

143. For all of these reasons, the first part of the Republic of Austria’s fifth plea must be rejected.

144. So far as the Guarantee Notice is concerned, it should be pointed out, as was correctly stated by the French Republic, that the Guarantee Notice deals with the question of whether a guarantee constitutes State aid, rather than with the assessment of its compatibility with the common market. Point 5 of the Guarantee Notice makes this clear. This means that its application has no impact on whether the Credit Guarantee is compatible with Article 107(3)(c) TFEU. According to point 3.2(d) of the Guarantee Notice, the fact that ‘a market-oriented price is paid for the guarantee’ is one of four criteria that have to be fulfilled cumulatively in order for the presence of a State aid to be ruled out in the case of an individual State guarantee. In this respect it bears observing that none of the parties disputed that the Credit Guarantee amounted to State aid, precisely because the price paid by NNBG in respect of that Guarantee could not be considered to be a market price. It could not be considered as such for the simple reason that no such facility was available on the relevant capital markets. (95) Thus, the Credit Guarantee unquestionably did not fulfil the criteria to be ruled out as State aid in accordance with the Guarantee Notice. For the same reason, the General Court did not have to probe further into the question of whether ‘the borrower is not in financial difficulty’. That is another one of the four criteria established for that purpose. (96)

145. Nor is the Republic of Austria’s argument that, in any case, under point 4.2 of the Guarantee Notice, a cash equivalent of the guarantee would have to be calculated, correct. Given that the Credit Guarantee, together with the other aid measures, was — undisputedly — classified as State aid, there was no reason to investigate any further.

146. For these reasons, the Republic of Austria’s argument relying on the Guarantee Notice is, in any case, inoperative and the fifth plea must be rejected in its entirety.

147. As it happens, the Commission had expressed concern that the original fee which had been suggested by the United Kingdom in respect of the Credit Guarantee had underpriced the relevant risk. The United Kingdom had consequently adjusted the guarantee fee rate to 295 basis points (reflecting, approximately, a BB credit risk) and the Commission concluded that the adjusted fee rate was an approximation of a hypothetical market rate for a facility which was not, in fact, offered by the market. (97) This change in the adjusted fee structure also addressed concerns which the Commission had voiced regarding the exceptionally long maturity of the bonds to be issued. (98)

148. The question thus reduces itself to this: can it be said that there is any real uncertainty regarding either the duration of the guarantee, the amount of the loan or the manner in which the fee rate was calculated? For my part, I can only agree with the approach of the General Court, which rejected those contentions. (99)

149. It is perhaps sufficient here to say that the Commission had before it evidence from which it could properly conclude that the guarantee was not unlimited in duration, but rather dealt with the timely payment of the principal and interest, with the bonds having a weighted average life of 27.4 years. (100) It can likewise be said that the Commission had before it a reasoned basis to justify its conclusion that the adjusted fee rate in respect of the Credit Guarantee ought to be 295 basis points, thus reflecting both a BB credit rating and the exceptionally long maturity date of the bonds at issue. (101)

150. In those circumstances, I find myself bound to observe that the arguments of the Republic of Austria regarding the supposed uncertainties of the extent of the aid are simply not well founded.

VI.    Summary

151. In summary, therefore, my principal conclusions are as follows:

(1)      Article 106a(3) of the Euratom Treaty makes it clear that the Euratom Treaty has the same standing as the TEU and the TFEU as far as the primary law of the Union is concerned.

(2)      Article 106a(3) of the Euratom Treaty further provides that neither the TEU nor the TFEU may be applied within the sphere of the Euratom Treaty, in so far as those provisions derogate from the provisions of the Euratom Treaty itself. If, therefore, a particular issue has been exhaustively or specially dealt with by the Euratom Treaty, then there is no room for the application of the TEU or the TFEU. By contrast, the TEU and the TFEU apply in all areas of EU law which have not been dealt with by the Euratom Treaty.

(3)      There is nothing in the Euratom Treaty dealing with the issue of State aid. In view of the fact that the Euratom Treaty is, on the one hand, simply a specific treaty dealing with a particular sector and given that, on the other hand, the TEU and the TFEU have more far-reaching aims (not least the operation of the internal market), it seems appropriate that rules contained in the TFEU concerning competition and State aid should apply to the nuclear energy sector when the Euratom Treaty does not contain specific rules. It is for those reasons that Article 107 TFEU applies to the State aid measure at hand.

(4)      The provisions of Article 1 and Article 2(c) of the Euratom Treaty necessarily envisage the development of nuclear power plants. The Member States clearly intended that the Euratom Treaty would be a living document, capable of organic development and adaptation to contemporary circumstances. It follows that the argument advanced by the Republic of Austria to the effect that those provisions of the Euratom Treaty do not cover either the building of further nuclear power plants or the replacement and modernisation of ageing plants by more modern, already developed technologies cannot be accepted.

(5)      While it is true that the merits of nuclear power are hotly debated in many Member States, this Court has neither the competence nor the democratic legitimacy to rule on such issues. Given, however, that it is clear that the development of nuclear power is, as reflected in the Euratom Treaty, a clearly defined objective of EU law, that objective cannot be subordinated to other (and, on one view, possibly conflicting) objectives of EU law, such as the protection of the environment contained in Chapter XX of the TFEU. In addition, the clear words of Article 194(2) TFEU plainly acknowledge the right of each Member State to choose between different energy sources and ‘the general structure of its energy supply’ and that right necessarily extends to the right of each Member State to develop nuclear power as part of its energy supply sources.

(6)      Contrary to the view which the General Court has adopted in a series of cases from Mediaset v Commission (102)onwards to the effect that any State aid approved pursuant to Article 107(3)(c) TFEU must serve a ‘common interest’, that requirement is not specified in the actual text of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU itself, even though Article 107(3)(b) TFEU (‘…important project of common European interest …’) does specify that.

(7)      It follows, therefore, that there is no requirement that the aid has to fulfil any purposes beyond those specifically set out in Article 107(3)(c) TFEU. According to its wording and the position of the provision in the TFEU, aid, in order to be compatible with the Treaty, neither has to pursue an ‘objective of common interest’ nor an ‘objective of public interest’. It only has to ‘facilitate the development of certain economic activities’ and it must not ‘adversely affect trading conditions to an extent contrary to the common interest’. As such, the Republic of Austria’s argument that the General Court committed an error in law when it held that the aid must only serve a ‘public’ and not a ‘common’ interest cannot succeed, because, in my view and contrary to the views of the General Court in the judgment under appeal, neither of those two criteria has actually to be fulfilled.

(8)      In any event, even if this assessment of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU is wrong, the construction of Hinkley Point C serves a ‘common interest’ (and, if you will, also a ‘public purpose’) in this sense, because the development of nuclear power stations remains a core objective of the Euratom Treaty, even if the concept of nuclear power is objected to by individual Member States, such as the Republic of Austria. By accepting the objectives of the Euratom Treaty, all Member States have clearly signified their unqualified acceptance in principle of the right of other Member States to develop nuclear power plants on their own territories should they wish to do so. A clearly stated Treaty objective of this kind must, almost by definition, be capable of constituting an objective of common interest for the purposes of the application of the State aid rules.

(9)      The General Court was fully entitled to find that there was abundant evidence before the Commission that the market was either unwilling or even incapable of coming up with finance for Hinkley Point C absent the guarantees and other forms of aid provided by the United Kingdom. It is irrelevant for present purposes that there might not be market failure in respect of other forms of electricity production. The General Court did not err when it concluded that the production of nuclear energy was the relevant economic activity for the purposes of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU.

(10)      The task of the Commission in State aid cases is, as Article 107(2) and (3) TFEU makes clear, simply to assess whether the State measure in question ‘may be considered to be compatible with the internal market’. That task is essentially to consider the compatibility of the aid in question with the rules on competition and the internal market and not, as such, the rules pertaining to the environment. By contrast, any decision as to whether a particular project should receive the appropriate permission from a planning and environmental perspective is, in principle, a matter for the relevant authorities of the Member States and not, as such, the Commission in the course of the application of the State aid rules.

(11)      The key point in respect of the examination of the compatibility of any aid with the internal market for the purposes of Article 107(3) TFEU is whether such aid leads to or encourages investment in the development of certain economic activities which would not otherwise take place. There is no ex ante distinction between investment aid and operating aid. Not only is such a distinction not warranted by a consideration of the actual text of Article 107 TFEU itself, but any such distinction would be simplistic and would lend itself to circumvention by the use of contrived accounting techniques.

(12)      The aid measures at issue here are admittedly not confined to pure construction costs per se, but also include specific costs associated with nuclear energy provision, including the costs of managing spent fuel. Those costs are nonetheless investment costs which must necessarily be incurred if the plant is to be operational.

(13)      The General Court was in the circumstances fully entitled to dismiss the challenge to the decision of the Commission to approve the aid measures in question granted by the United Kingdom in respect of the construction of Hinkley Point C.

VII. Conclusions

152. In these circumstances, I therefore propose that the Court should dismiss the appeal brought by the Republic of Austria in respect of the judgment of the General Court.


1      Original language: English.


2      See, also, order of 10 October 2017, Greenpeace Energy v Commission (C‑640/16 P, not published, EU:C:2017:752), and Communication ACCC/C/2015/128 before the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee dealing with access to administrative or judicial procedures to challenge acts and omissions by private persons and public authorities which contravene provisions of its national law relating to the environment (Article 9(3) of the Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters done at Aarhus, Denmark, on 25 June 1998). Those two proceedings both deal with the State aid for the Hinkley Point C project and each, in its own way, bears witness to the fierce opposition which the project is facing.


3      Judgment of 12 July 2018 (T‑356/15, EU:T:2018:439).


4      Commission Decision on the aid measure SA.34947 (2013/C) (ex 2013/N) which the United Kingdom is planning to implement for support to the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station (OJ 2015 L 109, p. 44).


5      OJ 2015 L 248, p. 9. Formerly Council Regulation (EC) No 659/1999 of 22 March 1999 laying down detailed rules for the application of Article 93 of the EC Treaty (OJ 1999 L 83, p. 1).


6      OJ 2004 L 140, p. 1.


7      OJ 2008 C 155, p. 10.


8      This will be indexed to the Consumer Price Index and will be open to adjustment 15 years after the day of start of the first reactor as well as 25 years after the day of start of the first reactor on the basis of known actual costs and revised predictions of future costs.


9      Here, the baseload segment.


10      That is, reasons that are not linked to health, nuclear safety, security, environmental, nuclear transport or nuclear safeguards.


11      State aid SA.34947 (2013/C) (ex 2013/N) — Investment Contract (early Contract for Difference) for the Hinkley Point C New Nuclear Power Station, Invitation to submit comments pursuant to Article 108(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (OJ 2014 C 69, p. 60) (‘decision to initiate the investigation’).


12      Council Decision (EU) 2019/274 of 11 January 2019 on the signing, on behalf of the European Union and of the European Atomic Energy Community, of the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community, OJ 2019 LI 47, p. 1 and Council Decision (EU) 2020/48 of 21 January 2020 amending Decision (EU) 2019/274 on the signing, on behalf of the European Union and of the European Atomic Energy Community, of the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community, OJ 2020 LI 16, p. 1.


13      This was confirmed by the Treaty of Lisbon, which left the Euratom Treaty virtually unchanged; see the recitals of Protocol No 2 amending the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community of the Treaty of Lisbon (OJ 2007 C 306, p. 199). This is confirmed by Declaration No 54 of several Member States annexed to the final act of the intergovernmental conference which adopted the Treaty of Lisbon (OJ 2010 C 83, p. 356).


14      Article 106a(1) of the Euratom Treaty makes certain institutional provisions of the TFEU directly applicable to the Euratom Treaty, whereas Article 106a(3) of the Euratom Treaty clarifies that the provisions of the TEU and the TFEU shall not derogate from the provisions of the Euratom Treaty. Similar provisions existed prior to the Treaty of Lisbon. The equivalent to Article 106a(3) of the Euratom Treaty was contained in the EC Treaty, namely in Article 305(2) thereof.


15      Paragraph 72 of the judgment under appeal.


16      C‑5/14, EU:C:2015:51, points 31 to 34.


17      See the preamble to and Article 2 of the Euratom Treaty.


18      See, by implication, judgment of 29 July 2019, Inter-Environnement Wallonie and Bond Beter Leefmilieu Vlaanderen (C‑411/17, EU:C:2019:622). See also, Opinion of Advocate General Kokott in Inter-Environnement Wallonie and Bond Beter Leefmilieu Vlaanderen (C‑411/17, EU:C:2018:972, point 42), as well as the judgments referred to by the General Court in paragraph 73 of the judgment under appeal, namely, judgments of 29 March 1990, Greece v Council (C‑62/88, EU:C:1990:153, paragraph 17), and of 12 April 2005, Commission v United Kingdom (C‑61/03, EU:C:2005:210, paragraph 44), as well as Opinion 1/94 (Agreements annexed to the WTO Agreement), of 15 November 1994 (EU:C:1994:384, paragraph 24).


19      Given that the Republic of Austria referred to paragraph 79 et seq. as the points in the grounds of the decision of the General Court which are contested, it remains somewhat unclear whether that part of the judgment has been challenged or not.


20      Emphasis added.


21      Judgment of 15 June 2010 (T‑177/07, EU:T:2010:233, paragraph 125).


22      Paragraph 86 of the judgment under appeal.


23      Before the General Court, the Republic of Austria had relied on that judgment in support of the proposition that the aid measure must pursue a clearly defined objective of common interest.


24      Emphasis added.


25      Judgment of 15 June 2010 (T‑177/07, EU:T:2010:233, paragraph 125).


26      Paragraph 86 of the judgment under appeal.


27      Paragraph 108 of the judgment under appeal with reference to recital 374 of the decision at issue.


28      Judgments of 17 September 1980, Philip Morris Holland v Commission (730/79, EU:C:1980:209, paragraph 24), and of 24 February 1987, Deufil v Commission (310/85, EU:C:1987:96, paragraph 18).


29      Judgments of 26 September 2002, Spain v Commission (C‑351/98, EU:C:2002:530, paragraph 74), and of 11 September 2008, Germany and Others v Kronofrance (C‑75/05 P and C‑80/05 P, EU:C:2008:482, paragraph 59).


30      The Republic of Austria refers to the principles referred to for the assessment of State aid, contained in Chapter 3 of the Communication from the Commission — Framework for State aid for research and development and innovation (OJ 2014 C 198, p. 1; paragraph 35); in Chapter 3.1 of the Communication from the Commission — Guidelines on State aid for environmental protection and energy 2014-2020 (OJ 2014 C 200, p. 1; paragraph 26 et seq.); and in paragraph 33 of the Communication from the Commission — EU Guidelines for the application of State aid rules in relation to the rapid deployment of broadband networks (OJ 2013 C 25, p. 1); as well as paragraph 26 of the Guidelines on regional State aid for 2014-2020 (OJ 2013 C 209, p. 1), which all list the contribution towards the achievement of ‘an objective of common interest’ as an assessment criterion.


31      Recitals 366 to 374 of the decision at issue. The decision to initiate the investigation (OJ 2014 C 69, p. 60; paragraphs 237 to 267) was even more detailed on this issue.


32      Judgment of 17 September 1980 (730/79, EU:C:1980:209, paragraph 26).


33      Judgment of 24 February 1987 (310/85, EU:C:1987:96, paragraph 18).


34      Judgment of 19 September 2002 (C‑113/00, EU:C:2002:507, paragraph 67).


35      Judgment of 11 September 2008, Germany and Others v Kronofrance (C‑75/05 P and C‑80/05 P, EU:C:2008:482, paragraph 60 and the case-law cited). See, also, judgments of 30 September 2003, Freistaat Sachsen and Others v Commission (C‑57/00 P and C‑61/00 P, EU:C:2003:510, paragraph 53), and of 21 July 2011, Freistaat Sachsen and Land Sachsen-Anhalt v Commission (C‑459/10 P, not published, EU:C:2011:515, paragraph 38).


36      Judgments of 11 September 2008, Germany and Others v Kronofrance (C‑75/05 P and C‑80/05 P, EU:C:2008:482, paragraph 65), and of 21 July 2011, Freistaat Sachsen and Land Sachsen-Anhalt v Commission (C‑459/10 P, not published, EU:C:2011:515, paragraph 38), in which the Court clearly states that it is only in the context of the exception contained in the Treaty (here, Article107(3)(c) TFEU) that the validity of the contested decision must be examined, not by reference to an alleged earlier practice.


37      Point 65 et seq. of this Opinion.


38      Emphasis added.


39      Judgment of 15 June 2010, Mediaset v Commission (T‑177/07, EU:T:2010:233, paragraph 125), emphasis added. In the judgments of 14 January 2009, Kronoply v Commission (T‑162/06, EU:T:2009:2, paragraph 74), and of 11 December 2014, Austria v Commission (T‑251/11, EU:T:2014:1060, paragraph 208), referred to by the Republic of Austria, the Court of First Instance and the General Court, respectively, endorsed the Commission’s decisions that assessed whether the aid had an objective in the common interest or contributed to an objective in the common interest without having to deal with the question of whether the aid in the specific case served a common interest itself.


40      Recitals 237 to 267.


41      Judgment of 15 June 2010 (T‑177/07, EU:T:2010:233).


42      See Kahl, W., ‘Die Kompetenzen der EU in der Energiepolitik nach Lissabon’, Europarecht, No 5, 2009, pp. 601-621. Kahl points out that the European Council Meeting in Laeken in 2001 had already decided against an integration of the Euratom into the EU due to the political differences that were to be expected. This led to the inclusion of only one paragraph, in the section ‘Miscellaneous Decisions’, mentioning the importance of safety in the nuclear sector in the Presidency Conclusions, European Council meeting in Laeken 14 and 15 December 2001, CONV 621/03, p. 1. See, also, Section III, paragraph 11 of the Presidency Conclusions of the Brussels European Council of 8/9 March 2007, 7224/1/07 REV 1 which attests to the conflicting views.


43      Point 42.


44      See Article 1 of the Euratom Treaty.


45      Judgment of 17 September 1980 (730/79, EU:C:1980:209).


46      Judgment of 24 February 1987 (310/85, EU:C:1987:96).


47      Judgment of 17 September 1980 (730/79, EU:C:1980:209).


48      Judgment of 24 February 1987, Deufil v Commission (310/85, EU:C:1987:96, paragraph 18).


49      Judgment of 17 September 1980 (730/79, EU:C:1980:209, paragraph 24).


50      Judgment of 19 September 2002 (C‑113/00, EU:C:2002:507).


51      Judgment of 17 September 1980 (730/79, EU:C:1980:209).


52      Judgment of 19 September 2002,  (C‑113/00, EU:C:2002:507, paragraph 67).


53      See, also, the preamble ‘ANXIOUS to create the conditions of safety necessary to eliminate hazards to the life and health of the public’, as well as Article 2(b) of the Euratom Treaty.


54      The facts of this case are quite different from the ones in the judgment of 12 April 2005, Commission v United Kingdom (C‑61/03, EU:C:2005:210), where the Commission wanted to rely on a provision of the Euratom Treaty in the area of nuclear energy for military purposes which are outside the Euratom Treaty’s ambit. The Court stated, in that context, in paragraph 44 that ‘in so far as [the Euratom] Treaty does not provide the Community with a specific instrument in order to pursue [the protection of the health of the public and the environment against the dangers related to the use of nuclear energy, including for military purposes], it is possible that appropriate measures may be adopted on the basis of the relevant provisions of the EC Treaty’. The facts of this case are also quite different from those in the judgment of 27 October 2009, ČEZ (C‑115/08, EU:C:2009:660), which dealt with the application of the principle of equality, on which the Euratom Treaty does not contain any explicit rules (see paragraphs 87 to 91 of that judgment) and the application of which — as the Slovak Republic points out in the present case — does not lead to an outcome that negates the objectives of the Euratom Treaty.


55      See, also, the procedural rule contained in Article 192(2)(c) TFEU in case the European Union is active in the area, as well as declaration No 35 annexed to the final act of the intergovernmental conference which adopted the Treaty of Lisbon, signed on 13 December 2017.


56      For those reasons, Austria cannot rely on cases outside the area of State aid either.


57      See judgment of 3 December 2014, Castelnou Energía v Commission (T‑57/11, EU:T:2014:1021, paragraph 189).


58      Although the Republic of Austria argues that those principles ought to have been taken into account already when deciding whether the aid measures pursued an objective of common interest, it challenges paragraph 517 of the judgment under appeal, which deals with the question of proportionality of the measure as per the negative condition contained in Article 107(3)(c) TFEU. Accordingly, the General Court’s considerations in that part of the judgment under appeal deal with questions of proportionality.


59      With respect to that assessment, see point 115 et seq. of this Opinion.


60      Judgment of 15 June 1993, judgment of 15 June 1993, Matra v Commission (C‑225/91, EU:C:1993:239, paragraph 41). See, also, the General Court’s assessment in that respect in judgments of 13 January 2004, Thermenhotel Stoiser Franz and Others v Commission (T‑158/99, EU:T:2004:2, paragraph 159); of 12 February 2008, BUPA and Others v Commission (T‑289/03, EU:T:2008:29, paragraph 315); and of 3 December 2014, Castelnou Energía v Commission (T‑57/11, EU:T:2014:1021, paragraphs 185 and 190).


61      Thus, for example, the construction and operation of nuclear plants in the United Kingdom requires a number of permissions, licences and permits in which the relevant environmental issues can be addressed. The grant of such permissions, licences and permits can also be challenged in judicial review proceedings. The Commission is also informed, for example, with regard to any plans for the disposal of radioactive waste in accordance with Article 37 of the Euratom Treaty and it takes an opinion on such plans. See, for example, Commission Opinion of 3 February 2012 relating to the plan for the disposal of radioactive waste arising from the two EPR reactors on the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, located in Somerset, United Kingdom (OJ 2012 C 33, p. 1).


62      Paragraph 359 of the judgment under appeal, with respect to the decision of 9 October 2015 in Case SA.34962, Waste Contract for New Nuclear Power Stations (OJ 2016 C 161, p. 1).


63      See paragraphs 155 to 157 as well as paragraph 405 of the judgment under appeal, in which the General Court dealt with the particularities of nuclear energy (particularly with respect to the financing for nuclear energy plants).


64      According to the second subparagraph of Article 256(1) TFEU and the first paragraph of Article 58 of the Statute of the Court of Justice of the European Union, actions only lie against errors of Union law committed by the General Court.


65      See, to that effect, judgment of 5 July 2011, Edwin v OHIM (C‑263/09 P, EU:C:2011:452, paragraph 64 and the case-law cited).


66      See, for example, paragraphs 165, 168, 171 and 174 of the judgment under appeal.


67      Order of 26 September 2016 (T‑382/15, not published, EU:T:2016:589). In those proceedings, Greenpeace Energy eG and other companies active in the generation and supply of energy from renewable sources tried to challenge the decision at issue. See footnote 2. There, the General Court held, in paragraph 55 et seq., that the nature of electricity is such that, once it has been allowed into the transmission or distribution system, it is difficult to determine its origin and in particular the source of energy from which it was produced and, for that reason, different markets according to the source of the energy cannot be defined.


68      Judgment of 15 July 1963 (25/62, EU:C:1963:17).


69      Referred to as ‘the negative condition’ of Article 107(3)(c) TFEU. See point 59 of this Opinion.


70      Paragraphs 231 and 232 of the judgment under appeal.


71      Recitals 382 to 385 of the decision at issue.


72      Paragraphs 150 and 151 of the judgment under appeal and the case-law cited.


73      Market failure describes a situation in which the market cannot fulfil market demand. However, Member States are entitled to pursue aims set out in Article 107(2) and (3) TFEU even if there is insufficient demand in the market for them.


74      In so far as the Republic of Austria relies on the judgment of 9 June 2016, Magic Mountain Kletterhallen and Others v Commission (T‑162/13, not published, EU:T:2016:341, paragraph 81), for its argument that the General Court has nonetheless relied on market failure, it is quite clear that the General Court only referred to that judgment as an additional argument in that particular case, but this did not limit its finding that market failure was not a necessary criterion in any way.


75      OJ 2016 C 262, p. 1.


76      Judgment of 14 January 2015 (C‑518/13, EU:C:2015:9).


77      Judgment of 14 January 2015, Eventech (C‑518/13, EU:C:2015:9, paragraph 65).


78      Judgment of 14 January 2015 (C 518/13, EU:C:2015:9).


79      It should also be pointed out that Contracts for Difference are also being offered for renewable energy sources, with specific provisions that are geared to those industries.


80      See paragraph 516 of the judgment under appeal.


81      Judgment of 3 December 2014 (T‑57/11, EU:T:2014:1021, paragraph 189).


82      Judgment of 12 February 2008 (T‑289/03, EU:T:2008:29, paragraph 314).


83      OJ 1994 C 72, p. 3.


84      Paragraph 584 of the judgment under appeal.


85      Paragraph 589 of the judgment under appeal.


86      Paragraph 593 of the judgment under appeal.


87      Paragraph 580 of the judgment under appeal.


88      Paragraphs 424 and 594 of the judgment under appeal.


89      Judgment of 6 November 1990 (C‑86/89, EU:C:1990:373).


90      Judgment of 21 July 2011 (C‑459/10 P, not published, EU:C:2011:515).


91      Ibid.


92      In paragraphs 72 to 74 of the appeal, it becomes clear that, although the Republic of Austria denies that in paragraph 70 of the appeal, by its reference to the insufficient determination of aid elements, it really means that the aid was not quantified.


93      This is not surprising; the General Court did not deal with the matter, as it had not been raised by the Republic of Austria.


94      The Republic of Austria even agrees to this in paragraph 73 of its appeal.


95      Recitals 336 to 339 of the decision at issue.


96      Point 3.2(a) of the Guarantee Notice.


97      Recitals 463 to 477 of the decision at issue; paragraphs 304 and 305 of the judgment under appeal.


98      Recital 472 of the decision at issue.


99      See, generally, paragraphs 302 to 322 of the judgment under appeal.


100      Recital 432 of the decision at issue.


101      Recital 472 of the decision at issue.


102      Judgment of 15 June 2010 (T‑177/07, EU:T:2010:233).