Despite its importance and singularity, the EU’s state aid policy has attracted less scholarly attention than other elements of EU competition policy. Introducing the themes addressed by the special issue, this article briefly reviews the development of EU policy and highlights why the control of state aid matters. The Commission’s response to the current economic crisis notably in banking and the car industry is a key concern, but the interests of the special issue go far beyond. They include: the role of the European Commission in the development of EU policy, the politics of state aid, and a clash between models of capitalism. The special issue also examines the impact of EU policy. It investigates how EU state aid decisions affect not only industrial policy at the national level (and therefore at the EU level), but the welfare state and territorial relations within federal member states, the external implications of EU action and the strategies pursued by the Commission to limit any potential disadvantage to European firms, and the conflict between the EU’s expanding legal order and national.