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Commission publishes 1994 Report on Competition Policy

At the initiative of Mr. Van Miert, the Commission has recently published the Report on Competition Policy which provides a complete overview of the Commission's activities in 1994.

The report examines the areas covered by Union competition policy: restrictive practices; the ...
At the initiative of Mr. Van Miert, the Commission has recently published the Report on Competition Policy which provides a complete overview of the Commission's activities in 1994.

The report examines the areas covered by Union competition policy: restrictive practices; the abuse of dominant positions; merger control; the control of State aid; the liberalization of areas such as posts, telecommunications and energy; and international aspects of competition policy.

The report is addressed primarily to other Union institutions and to Member States. It is intended to provide them with an explanation of the competition policy objectives which the Commission has been pursuing and proposes to pursue in the future. It also seeks to provide information on competition policy for businesses and industry, and more generally for the public at large.

- Restrictive practices and abuse of dominant positions:

Detecting and prosecuting cartels remains one of the Commission's priorities. Three "hard core cartels", involving large numbers of firms, were prohibited in 1994 in decisions which also imposed substantial fines. The decisions related to key sectors of the economy, namely steel (steel beams), carton board and cement.

A case which showed the importance of a strict competition policy in the establishment of a genuine single market was that of rail transport in Germany (Deutsche Bahn), which was the first in this sector where the Commission imposed a fine for the abuse of a dominant position.

In applying the competition rules, however, the Commission bore in mind the need to support the restructuring of Community industry so as to increase competitiveness. It took a much more sympathetic approach in cases where firms, rather than protecting themselves artificially against outside competition, preferred to step up cooperation by means of technology transfer licenses, joint ventures, what were termed "strategic alliances", or mergers.

- Merger control:

The number of merger transactions notified was higher than in previous years, and there was also an increase in the number of cases in which the Commission expressed serious doubts as to the compatibility with the common market of the transaction proposed.

- State aid:

There were several spectacular State aid decisions, notably those concerning the reorganization of the steel industry and the publicly owned companies Air France and Bull.

In 1994 the Commission adopted guidelines on State aid for rescuing and restructuring firms in difficulty. It also began consultations on draft guidelines on aid to employment and a revised version of guidelines on aid for research and development, particularly in order to take account of the thinking in the White Paper on Growth, Competitiveness and Employment.

- Liberalizing monopolies:

Fresh progress was made towards liberalizing sectors in which competition was restricted or indeed eliminated entirely by special or exclusive rights granted to enterprises entrusted with the operation of particular services. This is especially common in posts, telecommunications, energy, etc.

The Commission continued to pursue the liberalization of telecommunications in accordance with the timetable laid down by the Council, which calls for full competition by 1988.

In the energy sector, the Commission worked against the background of the need to complete the single market in energy and to ensure that the gas and electricity markets and the interconnected networks were safe, open, transparent, efficient, competitive and respectful of the environment. Legislative dialogue between the Commission, Parliament and the Council continued in a search for agreement on the proposals for directives which would establish a single market in gas and electricity.

- The international dimension:

The Commission continued its efforts to develop a real body of competition rules at international level, and even more important to establish effective mechanisms to police them. A working party composed of independent experts and Commission staff began examining these questions in 1994.
DE
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