Since the old and the new Competition Commissioner, Margarethe Vestager, has taken office in 2014, one could develop the impression that State aid control encompassed little more than the so-called „Tax Rulings“.
Looking at the famous Apple case, where in August 2016 the Commission had found that two tax rulings of the Irish fiscal administration dating from 1991 and 2007 had reduced the tax burden of the US tech giant in a manner running counter to the prohibition of illegal aid (see Commission Decision of 30 August 2016, Case SA.38373), which in turn led to demands Apple should reimburse some € 13 billion to the Irish tax office, the most apt description of the role this case has since played in State aid control might be a quote by J.R.R. Tolkien´s world-famous trilogy which runs as follows: „One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them!“.
On 15 July 2020 the General Court of the European Union quashed this decision, holding that the primary, subsidiary and alternative lines of reasoning the Commission has employed had all to be rejected (Joined Cases T-778/16 and T-892/16, Ireland and Apple v. Commission, ECLI:EU:T:2020:338. In essence, the Court came to this conclusion, as it found that the Commission had disregarded the applicable Irish tax law.
As all errors the General Court identified in the Commission´s assessment concern issues of fact rather than of law, the discovery of suitable grounds to appeal this ruling to the European Court of Justice seems tricky, to say the least. Maybe, before adopting the verdict against Apple, Competition Commissioner Vestager should have followed the advice rendered by famous Bavarian comedian Karl Valentin who had put it like this: “Liking it I could well have wanted, but being allowed to I didn´t dare to”.