Volume 45 (2008) / Issue 5
Although the protection of legitimate expectations is a well–known doctrine of EU law and is, as such, regularly applied by Community courts, its boundaries in the particular field of State aid are remarkably unclear. The case law relating to the application of this doctrine appears at first sight to be ambiguous and even sometimes incoherent. This seems to have led several commentators to conclude that applicants seeking the benefit of the protection of legitimate expectations should, if not renounce altogether, at least abandon almost all hopes of succeeding in such an endeavour. On the basis of a near–comprehensive study of the relevant case law and decision practice, this paper will try to show (i) that, once a rationalization effort is performed, the conditions of a successful legitimate expectation claim appear more clearly; and most importantly (ii) that the EU institutions in charge of State aid control (principally the Commission and the Community courts) are not indifferent – far from it – to claims based on the notion of legitimate expectations. Therefore, it will be argued that recipients of unlawful State aids should study carefully the conditions of application of the principle of legitimate expectation, for there is still a case for hope.
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