The European Commission has updated the national ceilings for regional aid it set in the state aid guidelines it published in December last year, to apply during the period from 2000 to 2006. A year ago, as part of a wider effort to concentrate aid on the most deserving areas, it reduced the ceiling for regional state aid coverage from 46.7% to 42.7% of the European Union's population - below the current Structural Funds coverage. In the Agenda 2000 proposals, the Commission's aim is to reduce the population covered by Structural Fund aid from 50.6% to between 35% and 40% on average, which would leave Member States with some room to fund non-eligible regions through state aid.

On December 16, the Commission updated the national ceilings for regional aid coverage on the basis of the latest statistics (1994-96 for per capita GDP and 1995-97 for unemployment). The national ceilings for assisted population coverage under the EC Treaty Article 92@3(a) and (c) derogations which the Commission considers compatible during the period from 2000 to...

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