Is EU competition policy protecting the citizen at the expense of the economy?


Picture of Antolín Sánchez Presedo
Antolín Sánchez Presedo

Member of the European Parliament

It is not recommended to use armour to swim across troubled waters. Citizens and the economy, as the boatmen and the boat, share the same voyage. Taking the metaphor one step further, shedding the armour of protectionism and increasing the effectiveness of competition policy can free the ship and its crew to navigate what remains an economic crisis for many Europeans.

During the crisis, some argued that stimulating competition should be put aside. It’s been vital in avoiding an economic catastrophe. It restrained trends of protectionism and market fragmentation, promoted control on anticompetitive behaviour and provided a European framework for public intervention that has contributed to financial stability. Competition policy was the only common tool for banking crisis resolution; providing a truly useful experience to mitigate the “moral hazard” and to progress towards a Banking Union. Now, competition policy should go beyond to ensure more transparent, efficient and fair financial markets.

To face globalisation, more aggressive enforcement of EU competition law must increase the competitiveness of the EU and allow companies to play fairly in the global market, even becoming global players. The EU should launch an External Strategy on Competition Policy based on open markets, economic integration and global cooperation to ensure a genuine level playing field in global market. It should also call for a basic framework of principles at global level under the UN system, a structured process of cooperation with Third Countries and standardised and advanced competition rules in Trade and Partnership Agreements.

The impact of EU competition policy will be measured by the benefit that it delivers to businesses of all sizes as well as to consumers. An open market for SMEs needs to rebalance competitively the bargaining power with their main business clients and to promote more agreements and networks of pro-competitive cooperation. The possibility of real choice by the consumer to get the best of the best is a critical stimulus for advanced, consumer- oriented economies.

Intellectual Property Rights must be defended and provide fair compensation, but should not work as abusive monopolies. Competition should guarantee the fundamental rights (privacy, health, education, etc.), should facilitate access to essential facilities and fair remedies to avoid the blockage of economic dynamism.

Tax competition affects public and private choices and causes market distortions. The different regulations lack of comparability. Competition authorities have to underline the scale and impact of this phenomenon and present initiatives to rebalance the interplay between competition and taxation.

Simplification of competition policy on an EU level must continue. At the same time, national competition authorities should have a minimum of competences and be specialised, irremovable and independent of other bodies. Fines should be attenuated in case of rapid compensation and the leniency programs should be strongly upgraded.

EU competition is an excellent engine for the progress of citizens and the European economy.

Please, step on the accelerator not the brake.

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