Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, spoke during a session of the European Parliament in Brussels on 30 January 2019. The European Commission is notified by EU member states of all technical regulations prior to their adoption. (John Thys – AFP/Lehtikuva)

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JUHA RAITIO, a professor of European law at the University of Helsinki, has reiterated that the procedure initiated yesterday by the government is not a notification procedure.

The Finnish government announced yesterday it will issue a so-called notification for legal certainty regarding “key parts” of the social, health care and regional government reform to the European Commission.

“This is not a notification,” responded Raitio.

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He reminded that the notification procedure entails a standstill period, during which the notifying member state is prohibited from adopting the regulation in question prior to an approval from the European Commission. The Finnish government, however, insisted yesterday that issuing the notification will neither become an obstacle to approving the bills, nor change the timetable for implementing them.

“The statements surely refer to our national systems, the thinking being that because the freedom of choice package won’t be implemented until some time down the line, there’ll be time to notify in between,” viewed Raitio.

“But the starting point is that the notification includes a standstill obligation. You can’t adopt a law that doesn’t win the commission’s approval through the notification.”

Raitio drew attention to an earlier government bill regarding state aid granted for commercial activities. The bill states that it is possible to issue a notification for legal certainty in the preparatory phase of an aid arrangement, if officials are unsure about whether the system would violate the state aid rules of the European Union. The procedure is described as an entirely separate procedure from the notification and state aid notification.

“This is the government’s own text, and it’s not a question of opinion,” said Raitio.

The decision of the government to issue a notification for legal certainty indicates that it is of the opinion that the social and health care system, as well as the freedom of choice system it is to entail, is non-commercial by nature, but that it is seeking approval for its interpretation from the European Commission.

The European Union defines state aid as an exclusive feature of a commercial system, because non-commercial activity is non-competitive by nature.

“Here’s the problem. Is the Finnish social and health care sector commercial or non-commercial activity?” asked Raitio.

The Finnish government views that the sector is non-commercial because it fulfils the criteria of the so-called solidarity principle: the system has a societal purpose, participation in it is compulsory, its funding is based on mandatory fees that are not determined based on health risks, and it includes regulation and monitoring.

Raitio, by contrast, viewed that the proposed system entails both commercial and non-commercial activity.

“The freedom of choice bill creates elements that by nature are similar to commercial competition and that poses a problem in regards to state aid,” he rebutted.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Source: Uusi Suomi

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