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Competition: the European Commission right in its boots

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The modernization of European competition policy will wait. Margrethe Vestager, executive vice-president of the European Commission responsible for competition policy, unveiled on Thursday, November 18 a twenty-page communication “sur competition policy adapted to new challenges “. The ambition of this document is to show how competition policy can serve both Europe’s economic recovery and its ecological and digital transitions.

The Alstom / Siemens affair

But with these announcements of limited scope, Margrethe Vestager has left all those who campaign for a complete overhaul of European competition policy – France and Germany in the lead – hungry. The two countries, scalded by the veto of the European executive in the file of the acquisition of Alstom by Siemens in early 2019, dream of putting an end to European orthodoxy in the matter.

Paris and Berlin maintain that when it comes to mergers, one needs to study the state of competition on a global – not a European scale. The two capitals also believe that a decision of the European Commission in the matter of competition must be able to be ” broken »By the European Council, which brings together the 27 European heads of state and government.

Global market conditions

The director general of the Business Europe employers’ lobby, Markus J. Beyrer, is on the same line: “ Competition rules should define markets realistically, taking into account global market conditions », He reacted.

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The failures of certain Alstom / Siemens-type merger projects raise questions about the unsuitable, or even outdated, nature of existing mechanisms and, above all, the place of competition law in relation to other public policy objectives. “, Advances a note from the Robert-Schuman Foundation.

“Appropriate” rules

The ” iron Lady “Margrethe Vestager (that’s her nickname in Brussels), for her part, preferred to hammer out that” strong application of the competition rules is fundamental to enable businesses and consumers to take full advantage of our single market ” and ” the competition rules have in them the necessary flexibility to adapt “.

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Thus, for the moment, nothing – or almost – is not moving, even if Margrethe Vestager indicated that the European Commission is currently carrying out a review ” of unparalleled scope and ambition »Competition policy instruments (merger control, anti-competitive practices, state aid, etc.).

When the rules are not appropriate, they must be revised “, Conceded the Danish Margrethe Vestager, before adding that in this case,” we find that the rules are, for the most part, appropriate “. In short, the probabilities of seeing the competition policy of the Old Continent reviewed from top to bottom in the coming months therefore seem quite low.

The extension of aid to businesses

On the chapter on business aid, the European Commission has decided to extend the temporary state aid framework by six months. This special regime, put in place in March 2020, allows Member States to provide targeted assistance to companies affected by the coronavirus crisis.

In addition, to counter disruptions in supply chains – particularly in the electronic chip market – the European executive ” could decide to allow »State aid which aims to support European companies in the sector.

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