The scheme’s essentials
The unfortunate truth is that governmental measures adopted to limit the spread of COVID-19 are unlikely to be lifted completely by this summer. Public events, including festivals, thus will have to adapt their time-tested model to accommodate for these rules. And this is likely to generate costs.
Fortunately, the European Commission has approved the Belgian government’s EUR 10 million scheme intended to support organisers of festivals taking place in the Flemish and Brussels Regions. Under the scheme, which is still subject to approval by the Flemish Regional Government, beneficiaries will receive up to EUR 500,000 in direct grants to cover costs relating to the general organisation and production of the festival, as well as costs incurred to comply with the governmental COVID-19 measures, such as rapid COVID -19 tests, mouth masks, disinfectant gel, crowd management, safety & security, etc.
The scheme, which carries the name “Flanders Is A Festival”, would apply to any “high-quality, unique event” which takes place between 15 June 2021 and 31 October 2021. It includes events involving music, design, theatre, dance, literature and film, on the condition that they mainly take place outdoors and have “international potential”. Applicants must be based in Flanders or Brussels and must submit their application by 19 April 2021.
The scheme is most-welcomed support for the events industry, which has been particularly hard hit by the crisis. The grants could help mitigate sudden liquidity shortages which potential beneficiaries have faced as a result of the outbreak of the virus and the subsequent lockdown.
Assessment under the Temporary Framework for State Aid measures
The Commission has assessed the Belgian scheme under the conditions of its Temporary Framework for State aid measures to support the economy in the COVID-19 outbreak. The Commission adopted this scheme in March of last year and has amended it several times since. The Framework is intended to ensure that businesses have the necessary liquidity to keep operating, or to survive a temporary freeze of their activities. At the same time, it seeks to ensure that the aid does not undermine European unity and the European single market . To achieve these goals, the Framework has simplified procedures and ensures that rules are easily accessible.
The Commission found that the Belgian scheme fully complies with the conditions set out in the Framework. In particular, the aid does not exceed EUR 1.8 million per company and will be granted prior to 31 December 2021. The Commission also considered that the measure was necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy the serious disturbance caused by the virus to the economy of Belgium, a Member State famous for its – in our modest opinion – excellent music festivals.