As of recently, state aid control is a part of the Montenegrin Competition Agency‘s (the “Agency“) scope of authority. The Montenegrin Parliament enacted a new State Aid Control Law (the “State Aid Law“), largely aligned with the EU legal framework – especially with Articles 107 and 108 of the TFEU. In the institutional sense, the new law grants the Agency the competence for reviewing state aid, since the former State Aid Commission was not considered a sufficiently operationally-independent authority – which was an issue in Montenegro’s EU accession negotiations (Chapter 8).
As a result of the implementation of the new State Aid Law, beginning from the 8th of March 2018, aid grantors are given one year to review whether they granted aid compatible with the State Aid Law (and the EU legal framework, per the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between EU and Montenegro). Should the Agency consider existing aid incompatible with the rules following the one-year deadline, it will give the aid grantor recommendations on how to achieve compliance. The aid grantor is then entitled either to propose a plan for implementing those recommendations, or to provide an opinion as to why it considers the specific aid to be compatible. In the latter case, if the Agency rejects the arguments of the aid grantor, the authority may initiate an in-depth investigation.
In conjunction with the new State Aid Law, the corresponding amendments to the Competition Law were enacted, making the Agency competent for all issues in relation to the protection of competition and state aid on the Montenegrin market. The body in charge (within the Agency) for state aid matters will be the Council – consisting of three members, the President of the Council and two other members appointed by the Government.
The effects of the shift to one regulator being in charge of both antitrust and state aid control remain to be seen in the near future, after the Council renders its’ first decisions. There is prior precedent in accession countries from the region entrusting these matters to a single authority (e.g. Croatia, Macedonia), while Serbia and Montenegro, up to now, have had separate authorities handling state aid control and competition. Ultimately, the judgement on the authority will rely on its institutional make-up, but the results of its practice.