20th Annual EStALI Forum

Château Ste Anne
Rue du Vieux Moulin 103
B-1160 Brüssel


Cherished fellow State aid wizards, irrespective of whether you come from inside or from outside the Administration, long-time companions, amazing, admired, respected friends and colleagues, dear guests, but, most of all, to my special delight this evening, I wish to send out a most hearty welcome to all those of you whom I haven´t seen for such a long time,

The year 2002 saw the birth of the first special-interest journal on European State aid law, the European State aid Law Quarterly. By the end of June this year we celebrated this birthday by the launch of the Milestones book. The following year, 2003, saw the coming-into-being of its stage-acting twin-sister, the Annual Experts’ forum on European State aid Law, EStALI. The latter has assembled us in this venue together tonight, because it is the 20th time that the Brussels EStALI forum is taking place. When thinking back at these times, there were some people around then, who thought that it would already be rather unlikely that EStALI would live to see even its second birthday or will be able to ever celebrate any birthday at all. And it fills me with immense delight that some of those who thought this way are amongst our cherished guests this evening.

What now makes the Quarterly so remarkable that it managed lasting for 20 years? Is it the quality of the writings published therein, is it the ingenuity of the ideas expressed by it or is it simply the human face it has shown over the years? I hold the third option is the decisive one.

The Quarterly in the way I have always seen it is simply a collection of fairy tales. It has not created these fairy tales, they have existed before. But the Quarterly tells the story of how the fairy tale characters we all know act in the world of State aid control.

Prior to the emergence of the Quarterly the world of State aid was a dull and unaspiring place, where civil servants talked to each other to the exclusion of others. But none of these civil servants, neither the ones on the Commission´s side nor the ones from the Member States have ever been telling any stories.

The Quarterly has changed this. All of you of course know the stories of Don Camillo and Peppone, Zorbas the Greek, Mary Poppins, Mowgli, Shere Khan and Baloo as well as the tales from the Decamerone and the Franz Lehar and Emmerich Kalman operettas, in order just to name a few selected ones. But before the emergence of our green journal you had not been aware that these characters also act in the world of State aid law. It is only thanks to the Quarterly that you now do.

Let us now jump over to the reason why we are all here tonight, meaning the EStALI forum. The EStALI forum, yes it is the acting twin sister or twin brother, as you like you choose, of the Quarterly. In other words it is like some sort of television series or better even a revolving movie picture.

When thinking about what I could tell you on this occasion I had the following idea:

The US National Film Preservation Board requires for a movie picture worth of preservation in the Library of Congress that it fulfils three criteria, meaning it must be “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant”.

When applying these criteria to the performances of EStALI what would be the result?

  • First, on the cultural significance:

Yes indeed, EStALI could be seen to be culturally significant, as it brought different cultures together, not only the different cultures of the EU nationals that act under its umbrella, but more importantly the cultures of the civil servants and of the private practitioners, the cultures of the lawyers and of the economists, and, last but not least, the seemingly entirely incompatible cultures or personalities of Wolfgang and myself. Let me please make a personal remark here: I mentioned before that there was – back in 2003 – a not so tiny group of people, some of whom are now in this room, who thought that EStALI would perhaps never have the chance of celebrating any birthday at all. Looking back and at said cultures of Wolfgang and myself the way they thought was all too reasonable.

  • Second, on the historical significance:

EStALI has overseen the major reform projects of the State Aid Action Plan and the State Aid Modernization. It has so far seen and hosted four Commissioners for Competition Policy and six Deputy Director Generals for State aid. Its annual conferences have not only been in Brussels, but to a sizeable number of EU Member States capitals. And it is regularly quoted not only in legal commentaries and textbooks, but also in the opinions of the Advocate Generals of the European Court of Justice.

There is some history to it, I guess.

  • Third, on the aesthetical significance:

When it comes to this criterion, the EStALI fora can come up with the beauty of the language as shown by Rose D´Sa, the rhetorics of Leo Flynn and the presentations of Caroline Buts just to name a few. Finally, I myself tried to regularly contribute by interestingly-looking clothing.

Now, what could all of this mean for EStALI´s potential for winning some motion picture awards? Well, it could mean the following:

  • Rose would certainly be a promising candidate for Best Sound.
  • Leo would certainly have solid chances to take the award for Best Cinematography.
  • Caroline could perhaps catch the award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
  • And I would certainly make an effort and run for Best Visual Effects.

When looking at the path ahead for EStALI it is the lyrics from Franz Lehar´s Circus Princess that spring to my mind. I made an attempt to translate them into English for you tonight:

  • Out again into the radiant light,
  • Out again with a happy face!
  • Loud as a clown, with a painted white face!
  • Show your art, because you get paid!
  • You’re just a juggler, a pawn of luck,
  • Show your art and show your tricks!
  • When doing it right, the crowd greets you with applause,
  • But if you fail, then people will laugh at you!
  • There today, there tomorrow, what does it matter!
  • Here today, gone tomorrow, what does it matter!
  • Luck shakes hands with you quick grab, comedian
  • And Have More!