Benedetto Brancoli Busdraghi
European Commission And Antitrust: Changing Patterns In Times Of Crisis
The present short article focuses on competition law in times of crisis. It examines how the current breakdown of economy has modified antitrust policy at EU and national level. The main issues are (i) State aid policy; (ii) control over cartels and abuses of dominant position; (iii) control over mergers. It is contended that, in the field of State aids, the European Commission is playing an active role indeed. It has adopted soft-law provisions and it is applying EU rules in a more flexible manner. Nevertheless, the crisis did not release Member States from the respect of State aid rules. With regard to cartels and abuses of dominant position, during the earlier stages of the crisis, the Commission has, to a certain extent, mitigated sanctions, but there is no rescue for hard core violations. Finally, the financial crisis has involved a decrease in the number of mergers and acquisitions, so that antitrust Authorities did not really have to enact a particular policy in this regard. It is worth mentioning, though, that some national governments seem proactive in facilitating State-engineered transactions in order to rescue big firms.