English > Calendar > Aims and Values in EU Competition Law - Wherefrom, Whereto, and Why? > About the conference
About the conference
From the very creation of the EC/EU, a point of departure of great significance has been the idea of undistorted competition. Thus, Article 3 (f) EEC – and later on Article 3(1), litra g) EC - has from the very birth of the Community been given a dominant impact. It is stated here that the activities include the institution of a system ensuring that competition in the common/internal market is not distorted. Primarily by reference to this provision as authority, an understanding in the direction of some kind of market economic ideology to rule has prevailed for long, especially in the area of competition law. This thinking has played a fundamental role in the case law of the European courts and by the Commission, and therefore also in legal scholarship as well as in the implementations of competition law regimes in national law.
Over the years of the life of the EC/EU, more and more aims and values have been added in the wake of Treaty amendments, these at times seemingly in fact competing with the aim of undistorted competition. However, the area of competition law has nevertheless seemed to continue to live a life of its own with a primary focus on the aim of undistorted competition, thereby apparently at the surface more or less ignoring its ‘surroundings’. And there has never been any explicit statement in the various treaties of what the aims of competition rules and policy are or should be.
As well known, the last ten years or so the Commission has opted for a more “economic approach” in competition law, focusing on the economic effects of anti-competitive behaviour, efficiency and underlining the benefits of the consumers as the sole purpose of the competition rules. It is an often heard statement that competition law should protect competition and not competitors. The more economic approach has been launched by the Commission as a “modernisation” of the competition rules starting out with the big modernisation of the block exemptions around 2000, culminating with the decentralisation of the competition rules with council regulation 1/2003 and the connected guidelines, and taken even further in the modernisation of article 102 (82), ending up with a guidance of the Commissions enforcement priorities from 2009.
With the entering into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the principle of undistorted competition in Article 3(1), litra g) EC, disappears from the Treaty itself. Instead, its content will survive to a certain degree, but in a severely less prominent place, namely only in a Protocol. The new Article 3 TEU determines that the European Union shall establish an internal market and shall work for the sustainable development of Europe based on balanced economic growth and price stability, a highly competitive social market economy, aiming at full employment and social progress, and a high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment. In addition, the previous Article 4 EC becomes Article 119 in TFEU. Herein, the ‘principle of an open market economy with free competition’ is mentioned. And in Article 3 (1) (b) TFEU one finds “the establishing of the competition rules necessary for the functioning of the internal market” as an exclusive competence for the Union.
The Treaty of Lisbon has entered into force, when recession is on the highest in the European and global economy raising among many other questions that of the future role of competition law and industrial policy in the European Union. In the report launched in April 2010 on revitalising the internal market, Professor Mario Monti points among many other things to the role on competition rules, state aid control and industrial policy in a revitalised internal market
These changes and developments - especially the introduction of ‘a highly competitive social market economy’ into the Treaty - raise the important issue of whether and how this will/shall influence the future shaping of competition law in the EU.
This issue constitutes the focus of the conference. The approach of the conference is deliberately to be as inclusive as possible and it will be of central interest what may be understood by a social market economy. Also, more theoretical dimensions of ideologies, such as Chicago school, ordo-liberalism, etc. will be included as well as issues as to whether perceptions may vary from sub-field to sub-field, e.g. from the area of private distortions of competition to areas of public distortions of competition. Finally, an evolutionary as well as a certain inter-disciplinary perspective will be included. The approach deliberately mainly is legal.