Traditionally, EU state aid law has been attached to the goals of maintaining free competition and preventing the distortionary effects of Member States’ economic intervention, while social considerations have been considered immaterial to state aid control. However, in more recent years, EU state aid law has acquired a clearer ‘social dimension’, indirectly streamlining national subsidies towards social goals. The entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, and particularly of Articles 3(3) TEU and 9 TFEU, has had an impact on the way in which social goals have been taken into account in the application of the state aid provisions. In the last decade, the European Commission has sought out a more appropriate balance between the main objective of preserving competition in the internal market on the one hand, and social objectives, also enshrined nowadays in the Treaties, on the other. This ‘social dimension’ is still underdeveloped, but emerges to varying degrees when looking respectively at the definition of state aid under Article 107(1) TFEU, at the scope of the derogations under Articles 107(2) and 107(3) TFEU and at the secondary legislation adopted for their implementation.
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