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Annabelle Lepièce


CMS DeBacker
Chaussée de La Hulpe 178
1170 Brussels
Languages French, English, Dutch

Annabelle Lepièce is specialized in European law, with a focus on competition law (antitrust, State aid, merger control). She also has a broad experience in the EU freedoms (services, goods, establishment).

Her legal practice includes drafting and submitting notifications of public interventions, individual aids or aids schemes to the European Commission (rescue and restructuring aid, RDI aid, investment aid, etc.) and representing the public authorities in European investigations on illegal aids. She advises public entities on the qualification of a measure as state aid, its potential compatibility with EU rules and the setting up of aid schemes, including measures co-financed with European structural funds (RDI aid, de minimis aid, public guarantees, rescue and restructuring aid scheme).

She files merger notifications, lodges complaints for abuses of dominant position and represents undertakings in investigations on cartels before national and European Competition authorities.

She also advices public authorities on compliance of their actions to the relevant European law, for instance on the implementation of European directives.

She represents undertakings in litigations with the European Commission regarding European subsidies.

She has an extensive experience in EU litigation, representing both public authorities and private undertakings before the General Court and the Court of Justice of the European Union.

She has a recognized expertise in air transport and the airport sector (financing of airport activities and infrastructure, contracts with airlines, groundhandling, airport charges, etc.), the banking sector, the steel manufacturing industry, energy and public investments (capital injections, guarantees, loans). In the aviation sector, she has represented the Belgian authorities in the investigation of the European Commission on the financing of the Charleroi Airport and Ryanair airport since 2002. She has assisted French, Dutch, Romanian and Spanish regional authorities and airports in European Commission investigations and advises them daily on the compliance of their funding and their contracts with airlines to European law and more particularly to State aid rules. She is also consulted by airlines on the public investments they may benefit from their public shareholders.

Annabelle is a highly recommended lawyer in the 2020 edition of the 100 Global Competition Review as well as in the Chambers 2019 and 2020 editions in Competition and State aid and in the 2020 edition of the Legal 500 EMEA.

She lectures on State aid at the Université Paris I - Panthéon- Sorbonne [Panthéon-Sorbonne University], at the Ecole d’Administration publique commune à la Communauté française et à la Région wallone [Common Public School of Administration to the French Community and the Wallonia region],at the Ecole Nationale d’Aviation Civile [National School of Civil Aviation] and at the Assembly of European Regions, at Connect, etc.

She is regularly invited to hearings by the Committee of the Regions as an expert in State aid. Thus, on 19 September 2016, she participated, as a legal practitioner, in a presentation of the Communication of the European Commission on the notion of State aid to the members of the Committee of the Regions, along with representatives of the European Commission.

She is a member of the Scientific Committee of the Revue du droit des Industries de réseau [Network Industries Law Review] (“RDIR”), of the “Competition Women’s Network” and the Belgian Competition Law Association.

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“ Market commentators praise Annabelle Lepièce for her advocacy skills and for her impressive knowledge of state aid case law. “

Chambers Global, 2019 (Competition/European law: State aid - Belgium)

“She has great expertise regarding the national competition authorities in Belgium and is accurate in foreseeing how the authorities will react.”

Feedback from a client, Chambers Europe 2018

“Annabelle Lepièce has notable experience in aviation matters, continuing to represent the SOWAER and the Walloon Authorities in relation to recent developments in the Commission's investigation into alleged state aid granted by Charleroi Airport to Ryanair.”

Chambers Europe 2018

“CMS advises airports and airlines on a range of state aid and competition law issues. Recent work includes advising Montpellier Airport on the European Commission’s investigation into alleged aid granted to Ryanair. Swissport is another key client, for which the team has been handling litigation concerning the granting of licences to provide ground handling services, along with a stream of corporate and commercial issues. The ‘proactive and creative’ Annabelle Lepièce leads the team, which includes experienced associate Hanne Baeyens.”

Legal 500 EMEA 2018

“CMS’ merger with Olswang boosted its competition practice through the arrival of Dirk Van Liedekerke, whose experience covers an expansive range of merger clearance, investigations, compliance issues and litigation. Annabelle Lepièce is also a key contact and has ‘a practical and pragmatic approach’. Recent work includes advising AMP, as a subsidiary of Lagardère Travel Retail, on its acquisition by bpost.”

Legal 500 EMEA 2018

Relevant experience

  • Setting up aid schemes (investment incentives, RDI aid, regional aid, de minimis aid, etc.) and drafting state aid notifications to the European Commission (intermodal transport, RDI) and individual government interventions (guarantee, capital injection, restructuring aid);
  • Acting on behalf of state entities in investigations of the European Commission on illegal aid, and before the Court of Justice of the EU (aviation sector, financing of hospitals, glass sector, steel manufacturing sector);
  • Acting on behalf of companies within the context of antitrust investigations carried out by the Belgian Competition Authority (BSE testing, distribution sector, etc.);
  • Merger notifications to the European Commission and to the Belgian Competition Authority (steel sector, bank, airport, etc.);
  • Drafting and filing anti-trust complaints to the European Commission and to the Belgian Competition Authority (advertising, energy, postal service, copyright, etc.).
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  • 1996 - Université Libre de Bruxelles, ULB (Law Degree)
  • 1996 - University of Aberdeen (Certificate in Legal Studies)
  • 1997 - Université Libre de Bruxelles, ULB (Postgraduate in European Law)
  • 1997 - University of Cambridge (Certificate of English Legal Methods)
  • 1997 - Bar admission (Brussels, Belgium)
  • 2001 - University of Edinburgh and British Council (European Young Lawyers Scheme)
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  • « State aid 2020 – Belgium », Global Competition Review, 7 January 2021;
  • « Aid schemes : an overview of EU and national cases”, with Marguerite Soete, Concurrences, January 2021;
  • « Le cadre européen applicable aux aides d’Etat dans le contexte de la crise du COVID-19 », with Marie Vandenneucker, Revue de Droit commercial, December 2020; 
  • « Aid schemes : an overview of EU and national cases », with Marguerite Soete, Concurrences, December 2020;
  • « How to support the development of new routes at an airport: commercial incentives and compatible aids in favour of airlines under EU Law », in Competition Law on Tourism, October 2020;
  • « Arrêt Otis : l’action en réparation pour toute personne ayant subi un préjudice indirect à la suite d’un cartel », with Marie Vandenneucker, JDE, April 2020, n° 268, p. 167;
  • Annabelle Lepièce is the national expert for Belgium as part of a study commissioned by the European Commission on the application of State aid rules and decisions by national courts;
  • « State aid 2019 – Belgium », Global Competition Review, August 2019;
  • « 25 years of existence ! An overview of the Belgian Competition Authority’s activity », with Marguerite Soete, Financier Worldwide, June 2019;
  • « Les subventions du D.G.A.S. au regard de la réglementation européenne en matière d’aides d’état », with Marguerite Soete, in Le décret de gestion et d’assainissement des sols du 1er mars 2018 (D.G.A.S.), Larcier, January 2019;
  • « State aid and the market economy operator principle », LexisNexis, 2018;
  • « Competition law and algorithms : the Luxembourg Competition Authority exempts a booking platform in the taxi sector », Competition law insight, September 2018;
  • « State aid 2018 – Belgium », Global Competition Review, http://globalcompetitionreview.com/preview_jurisdiction/1004485/belgium?preview=1000290;
  • « Le financement public des infrastructures de transport et leur tarification au regard de la réglementation européenne en matière d’aides d’Etat », RDIR, 2017/2-3, 129-156;
  • « Stade aid 2017 – Belgium », Global Competition Review, http://globalcompetitionreview.com/preview_jurisdiction/1004485/belgium?preview=1000290
  • «Airport charges and selectivity under State aid rules: The Lübeck Airport Case », Competition Law Insight, March 2017;
  • «To be selective or not to be selective? That is the question for tax measures under State aid rules », with Kim Gillade, Competition Law Insight, 13 December 2016;
  • Co-author «101 juridische vragen over concurrentie », Intersentia, 2016;
  • « La protection des consommateurs dans la réglementation européenne applicable aux SIEG », RDIR, 2016/03, p. 229-237;
  • Commented judgement of the Court of Justice of the European Union of 17 March 2016 (C.J.U.E, 17 March 2016), Case K. Ruijssenaars and others v Staatssecretaris van Infrastructuur en Milieu, C-146/15, RDIR, 2016/03, pp. 297- 299;
  • « No more safe harbor for the port sector under State aid rules », Competition Law Insight, 12 April 2016;
  • « Spanish Tax Lease scheme: tax advantages open to any investor carrying out a certain type of operation », Journal of European Competition Law & Practice, 26 February 2016;
  • « Les obligations de service public dans le secteur du transport aérien en droit européen », with Hanne Baeyens, RDIR, 2015/04, pp. 419 – 428;
  • « Arrêt Aéroport de Lübeck : les redevances aéroportuaires et le critère de sélectivité en matière d’aides d’Etat », RDIR, 2015/02, p. 225;
  • « Lufthansa’s new surcharging policy raises concerns », E-Commerce Law & Policy, Augustus 2015;
  • « Flying high – the first three French aviation aid schemes have been approved », Competition Law Insight, 9 June 2015, p. 12;
  • « Arrêté royal du 23 novembre 2014 modifiant l’arrêté royal du 6 novembre 2014 réglementant l’accès au marché de l’assistance en escale à l’aéroport de Bruxelles-National et arrêté ministériel du 19 novembre 2014 relatif à l’agrément des prestataires de services d’assistance en escale à l’aéroport de Bruxelles-National », RDIR, 2015/01;
  • « Les nouvelles lignes directrices de la Commission européenne sur les aides d’Etat aux aéroports et aux compagnies aériennes : sursis de dix ans pour les aéroports régionaux », RDIR, 2014/3, p.321-337;
  • « Access to facilities in the transport sector : an overview of EU and national case law », e- Competitions, July 2014;
  • « The new EU Guidelines on state aids to airports and airlines », the Journal of Airport Management, July 2014, p.226-243;
  • « Droit de la concurrence dans le secteur de la grande distribution : aperçu de quelques pratiques à risque », avec Sébastien Engelen , Aperçu juridique / Juridisch bekeken - Hommage André Lombart / Eerbetoon aan André Lombart, Larcier, 2014, p. 79 – 113;
  • « The European Commission’s consultation on its draft EU guidelines on State aid to airports and airlines », Journal of Airport Management, vol. 7, n° 4, Augustus 2013;
  • « EU Fines Microsoft € 561 M for breaching commitments », with Sébastien Engelen, Journal of E- commerce Law & Policy, April 2013, http://www.e-comlaw.com/e-commerce-law-and-policy/;
  • « EU competition law: price fixing in the e-book market », with Hanne Baeyens, Journal of E- commerce Law & Policy, January 2013, http://www.e-comlaw.com/e-commerce-law-and-policy/;
  • « Le paquet Post-Almark II : Réforme de la réglementation européenne sur le financement des missions de services public », Journal de Droit Européen, September 2012, p. 205;
  • « The Leipzig Airport judgment: The application of EU state aid rules to the financing of airport infrastructure », Journal of Airport Management, October 2011;
  • « Incentives and Aids for the development of routes under EU law : Practical guide for airports and airlines », Journal of Airport Management, January-March 2011, volume 5, n° 2, p. 160;
  • « Le financement des missions de service public : les contraintes européennes » in Les pouvoirs publics dans un monde en mutation, Kluwer, 2010, p. 133;
  • « Les aides d’Etat et les entreprises en difficulté » in Les pouvoirs publics dans un monde en mutation, Kluwer, 2010, p. 165;
  • « The new EC Directive on Airport charges », Journaal LuchtRecht, November 2009, p. 25;
  • « A Concorrência e a Tributaçao no direito europeu», with J-M. De Backer, Temas de Tributaçao e direito internacional, APED, 2008, p. 89;
  • « Financing of airport infrastructure under State aid rules : Guidelines and Practice of the European Commission », Journaal LuchtRecht, November 2008, p. 110;
  • « A Concorrência e a Tributaçao no direito europeu», with J-M. De Backer, Temas de Tributaçao e direito internacional, APED, 2008, p. 89; 
  • « The Community Guidelines on financing of airports and start up aid to airlines departing from regional airports: promoting regional airports or creating more legal uncertainty? », Journaal LuchtRecht, February 2007, pp. 5 à 28;
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Lectures list

Since 2011, Annabelle Lepièce has been giving yearly a seminar on state aid   in the aviation transport sector at the national school of civil aviation (ENAC – Toulouse) as part of the Masters degree programme in airport management and the management of aviation transport. She also gives this seminar at the University of Panthéon – Sorbonne, Paris, as part of Master II – International Transport.

Annabelle is often consulted for her expertise in European law and is a speaker at numerous conferences that will be included hereafter.

  • « COVID-19: How to support the companies under State aid rules? », avec Marguerite Soete, Amcham Belgium, 17 décembre 2020;
  • « How to support airports in the context of the COVID-19? », Connect, 17 November 2020; 
    « How to support airports and the relaunch of routes? », Airport Regions Council, 10 November 2020; 
    « How to support the relaunch of routes? », Connect, 13 October 2020;
  • « Le soutien public de nouvelles liaisons aériennes à l’aéroport d’Andorra-Pirineus », Empresa Familiar Andorrana, 9 July 2020;
  • « Comment soutenir les aéroports régionaux et assurer la relance des liaisons aériennes dans le cadre de la crise du COVID-19 ? – aspects juridiques », UAF & FA, 3 July 2020;
  • « EU update: aids to airport, commercial incentives to airlines, Brexit and other news », Connect Antalya, 19 February 2020;
  • « Mesures incitatives en faveur des compagnies aériennes en droit européen » with Marguerite Soete, Aéroports de Lyon, 4 February 2020 ;
  • « Les aides d’Etat » with Marguerite Soete, Service Public de Wallonie, 20 January 2020;
  • « The European review of state aid rules in the airport sector », ACI Europe «State Aid Task Force », 17 December 2019;
  • « La révision européenne du régime des aides d’Etat – aspects juridiques », UAF & FA « Ruptures », 6 November 2019;
  • « Keep calm and Brexit », Connect Cagliari, 6 June 2019; 
  • « Competition law and employment law’s interactions: tips and tricks », CMS, 7 May 2019;
  • « European Union External Aviation Policy », Connect, Dubaï, 30 April 2019;
  • « Comment appliquer les lignes directrices aux mesures incitatives accordées aux compagnies aériennes ? », UAF & FA « Séminaire Techniques : Les aéroports d’aviation générale et d’affaires et aéroports de proximité », 31st January 2019;
  • « Una estratègia aeroportuària per a Andorra »,  17è Forum d’Empresa Familiar Andorrana, 30th November 2018;
  • « The implementation of the Aviation Strategy for Europe », Tampere Aviation Forum, 16 May 2018 ;
  • « The implementation of the Aviation Strategy for Europe », Connect, Tbilisi, 22 February 2018;
  • « The development of new routes under EU State aid rules », CONNECT, Ajaccio 23 February 2017;
  • « State aids and Regional Development », Tampere Aviation Forum, 1 December 2016;
  • « The notion of State aid: a practitioner’s point-of-view », presentation for the “Lunchtime briefing - Notice on the Notion of State aid: implications for investments at regional and local level”, Committee of the Regions, 19 September 2016;
  •  « State Aid and Airports session », Competition Law Challenges in the Transport Sector conference, London, January 2016;
  • « New EU Aviation Guidelines: their impact on airports and airlines », Connect, Kilkenny, from 3 to 5 June 2015;
  • « Aides d’Etat et panorama des aides régionales (Wallonie-Bruxelles) disponibles », Kluwer training, actualités comptables et fiscales, 23 October 2014;
  • « State aids to airports and airlines: old rules versus the new Guidelines », Airneth Conference, Utrecht, 16 June 2014;
  • « State aids to airports and airlines : how to develop your activities under the new European Guidelines », French Connect, Marrakech, 5 June 2014;
  • « L’influence du droit européen sur les politiques des entités fédérées », lecture, Masters in Public Management organised by the EMMAP in association with the École d’Administration publique commune à la Communauté française et à la Région wallonne, September 2013;
  • « La réforme des lignes directrices européennes : quel impact sur le financement des aéroports régionaux », French Connect, Bordeaux, 2 July 2013;
  • « Les aides d’Etat dans le secteur du transport aérien », Round Table organised by the German Aviation Research Society, in association with the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne as part of the Master 2 in International Transport, on 5 February 2013;
  • « European news : better airports package (capacity, groundhandling and slots) », French Connect, Paris, 20 March 2012;
  • « Les aides et mesures incitatives aux compagnies aériennes et le financement public des aéroports: quelle est la marge de manœuvre dans le cadre européen actuel ? », French Connect, Lille, 24 March 2011;
  • « Le financement public des infrastructures aéroportuaires : une approche pratique pour les gestionnaires d’aéroports et leurs actionnaires publics », Conference organised in October 2010 as part of the Belgian presidency of the EU in relation to sustainable development in the aviation sector in Wallonia;
  • « Les aides d’Etat », training of the Cabinet du Ministre-Président de la Wallonie, Rudy Demotte, September and October 2010;
  • « Les réglementations européennes : contraintes ou nécessités ? Exemple concret de la crise volcanique. Comment l’industrie va-t-elle s’adapter à ces changements dans une période de déclin économique ? » en « Développement des routes dans le cadre légal de l’Union européenne », French Connect, Lourdes, June 2010;
  • « Le financement des missions de service public : les contraintes européennes », Winds of Change conference cycle organised by the CMS DeBacker law firm in February 2010;
  • « The notification of State aids for film production », presentation to Ciné- Regio in February 2010 in Berlin;
  • « The 2005 Guidelines on the financing of airports and start-up aids : practical experiences », European Assembly of Regions, September 2009;
  • « Les interventions publiques en faveur des entreprises en difficulté », the Winds of Change conference cycle organised by the CMS DeBacker law firm in November 2008;
  • « EU Regulation concerning regional airports », European Assembly of Regions, September 2007;
  • « The Community Guidelines on financing of airports : recent practice of the European Commission », European Regional Airports Forum, May 2006;
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Show only
26 January 2021
European Com­mis­sion ap­proves an aid of 73 mil­lion EUR in fa­vour of Al­it­alia
On 29 Decem­ber 2020, the European Com­mis­sion au­thor­ised an Itali­an aid of 73.02 mil­lion EUR in fa­vour of Al­it­alia. The ob­ject­ive of this meas­ure is to com­pensate for the dam­age suffered by the Itali­an...
26 January 2021
European Com­mis­sion clears Greek aid for Ae­gean Air­lines
On 23 Decem­ber 2020, the European Com­mis­sion au­thor­ised Greek aid of 120 mil­lion EUR, in the form of a dir­ect grant to the air­line com­pany Ae­gean Air­lines.   This aid aims to com­pensate the air­line for...
17 December 2020
European green light for sup­port meas­ures in fa­vour of Bornholm air­port
On 27 Novem­ber 2020, the European Com­mis­sion au­thor­ised the ex­ten­sion un­til 2023 of the pub­lic ser­vice com­pens­a­tion of EUR 3.5 mil­lion per year for Bornholm Air­port in Den­mark fol­low­ing an of­fi­cial no­ti­fic­a­tion...
07 December 2020
End of European Com­mis­sion in-depth in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to Span­ish aid to Air...
On 17 Novem­ber 2020, the European Com­mis­sion de­cided to close its in-depth in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to a Span­ish aid in fa­vour of the re­gion­al air­line Air Nos­trum. The air­line has in fact de­cided to re­nounce this...
17 December 2020
COV­ID-19: how to sup­port com­pan­ies un­der State aid rules?
Or­gan­ised in col­lab­or­a­tion with AmCham Bel­gi­um:me­di­um­AmCham Bel­gi­um and CMS are de­lighted to in­vite you to an ex­clus­ive we­bin­ar on pub­lic sup­port to com­pan­ies brought to you by An­na­belle Lepièce and...
26 November 2020
COV­ID-19: European Com­mis­sion ap­proves EUR 22.2 mil­lion Cyp­ri­ot loan in...
By its de­cision of 18 Novem­ber 2020, the European Com­mis­sion ap­proved a Cyp­ri­ot aid scheme with a budget of EUR 22.2 mil­lion in fa­vour of Her­mes Air­ports Lim­ited, the op­er­at­or of Larnaka and Pa­fos in­ter­na­tion­al...
25 November 2020
Sub­mis­sion of a pro­pos­al for de­cision against Caud­alie for im­pos­ing a min­im­um...
On 20 Novem­ber 2020, the In­vest­ig­a­tion and Pro­sec­u­tion Ser­vice of the Bel­gian Com­pet­i­tion Au­thor­ity an­nounced that it had sub­mit­ted a mo­tiv­ated pro­pos­al for de­cision to the Pres­id­ent of the Bel­gian Com­pet­i­tion...
24 November 2020
Single European Sky Per­form­ance Re­port 2019
On 29 Oc­to­ber 2020, the Single European Sky's per­form­ance re­view body pub­lished its re­port for 2019. This re­port also of­fers an in-depth over­view of the per­form­ance of air ser­vice pro­viders in the European...
18 November 2020
COV­ID-19: European Com­mis­sion ex­tends cer­tain sup­port meas­ures for the...
In May 2020, the Com­mis­sion ad­op­ted a series of meas­ures amend­ing cer­tain con­di­tions of the Reg­u­la­tion No. 1008/2008 on com­mon rules for the op­er­a­tion of air ser­vices in the Com­munity and of the Dir­ect­ive...
05 November 2020
European Com­mis­sion in­vest­ig­ates pos­sible pred­at­ory pri­cing by České Dráhy,...
On Oc­to­ber 30, 2020, the European Com­mis­sion sent a State­ment of Ob­jec­tions to České Dráhy, the Czech rail op­er­at­or, re­gard­ing pos­sible pred­at­ory pri­cing. At this stage of the in­vest­ig­a­tion, the Com­mis­sion...
27 October 2020
COV­ID-19: Ex­ten­sion of the slot al­loc­a­tion waiver in fa­vour of air­lines...
The COV­ID-19 out­break has had a con­sid­er­able im­pact on the avi­ation sec­tor and has led to a sharp drop in air traffic world­wide since the be­gin­ning of 2020 as a res­ult of re­strict­ive meas­ures taken by...
20 October 2020
COV­ID-19: European Com­mis­sion au­thor­ises EUR 19.3 mil­lion Ro­mani­an state-guar­an­teed...
On 5 Oc­to­ber 2020, the European Com­mis­sion au­thor­ised the grant­ing of a pub­lic loan guar­an­teed by the Ro­mani­an State for an amount of EUR19.3 mil­lion in fa­vour of Tar­om. The air­line had already re­ceived...