FOREWORD: EUROPEAN COMPETITION POLICY - MERGERS CONTROL - STATE AIDS - REFORM - RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT - EFFICIENCY

Possible reform of competition law: Food for thought to improve the interplay between merger control and other EU policies

The EU political landscape has evolved significantly over the last months, notably based on a renewed perception of external challenges facing the Union. This has triggered an intensified and refocused policy and legislative production, in particular on strategic topics and industrial policy. Ensuring a better interplay between EU merger control rules and such EU policies is therefore more justified than ever. This could in our view be done by drawing inspiration from the Important Project of Common European Interest concept (IPCEI) and by amending the EU Merger Control Regulation to allow positive contributions to EU policies to be taken into account as efficiencies. This would improve collegial work within the Commission and would reinforce the consistency of decisions with other EU policies without significantly modifying the framework or process of assessment of cases. A couple of additional proposals are also made concerning State aid rules, in particular with respect to research and development activities and IPCEIs.

The debate over the need to reform European competition law rules has been developing and intensifying over the last months. It has notably been fuelled by a clear evolution in the EU institutions’ perception of the challenges facing the Union and of the appropriate answers. The official declaration adopted in December 2018 by no less than 18 EU Member States at ministerial level (the Friends of Industry, among which France, Germany, Austria, Spain, the Netherlands, and Italy) provides some particularly clear and relevant statements, which also show that this thinking line is by no means limited to France or Germany. The declaration made it clear that the “European Union must build a European industrial policy that encourages the creation of major economic players capable of facing

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Pascal Belmin, Possible reform of competition law: Food for thought to improve the interplay between merger control and other EU policies, September 2019, Concurrences Review N° 3-2019, Art. N° 90980, www.concurrences.com

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