Convergence Within the European Competition Network: Legislative Harmonization and Enforcement Priorities
The decentralized system of application of the EU antitrust rules made possible the application of the same EU competition rules by different Member States with different procedures and enforcement systems. The role of the European Commission is to ensure that the Articles of the Treaty are enforced in a consistent and coherent manner in all competition cases. Major issues (such as the legal powers that the EU National Competition Authorities (NCAs) are endowed with and the possibility to complete the national tools’ kit where elements are missing) have been addressed within the European Competition Network (ECN) through best practices and recommendations. A significant level of convergence has been achieved through these “soft tools” but greater or even full convergence at the level of all EU Member States requires further work. As for the enforcement priorities within the ECN, it may be said that the European Commission’s priorities and that of the Member States seem to be different. This essentially derives from the fact that the cases of the National Competition Authorities (NCAs) are influenced to a considerable extent by the national economic specificities: all NCAs investigate cartels and other anticompetitive practices, but the priorities are linked to the national economic situation pertaining. On the other hand, cartels are without any doubt the most harmful infringements of competition and the European Commission’s approach in this respect should be a trend for all NCAs. Convergence should be sought not only for the legal powers that the NCAs may have at their disposal and for their enforcement priorities, but also for other competition policy related aspects such as: state aid and advocacy. Having in mind the diversity of the national competition systems within the ECN, this chapter endeavours to provide an overview on the convergence dimensions at EU level from legislative and enforcement perspectives in the competition filed. At the same time, the paper will highlight the convergent aspects with their benefits as well as the critical points that should be improved.