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28 May 2013

VP Almunia: Presenting the Annual Competition Report for 2012

"Almost six years have passed since the crisis started, and Europe tries to tackle the deep economic, social and political consequences of it. Against this background, the robust enforcement of EU competition law is more urgent than ever."

Our enforcement action, together with the regulatory work carried out by the Commission, delivered choice and lower prices to consumers when they were most needed. Our action also strengthened the Single Market, as shown by the string of cases in sectors that are the lifeblood of a modern economy: financial services and the network industries such as gas, electricity and telecoms. Finally, last year we also showed our determination to adapt our policies to changing economic conditions.

To help Member States make the most of scarce public funds, in May we launched our State aid modernisation strategy. We are also about to present formally our legislative initiative on private enforcement.

In 2012, the continued application of State aid rules for banks in distress was our main contribution for a fairer and more transparent financial sector. Indeed, only the completion of the Banking Union - including a Single Resolution Authority- will provide the framework we need to put behind us the origin of our present troubles. In the meantime, you together with the Council are close to the final adoption of the new legislation on bank recovery and resolution. This is an important step forward, but to ensure the transition towards the new steady state we are reviewing our special State aid rules to accompany the regulatory process and keep them consistent with the new regulatory framework that will emerge...

Last year the Commission continued its work on two antitrust investigations opened in 2011 in the Credit Default Swaps market and on the cases related to the Libor, Euribor and Tibor benchmark rates involving a number of banks and brokers... our goal is to make sure that the companies have not colluded to manipulate their prices through a reporting system...

The reform process is in full swing. The next steps will include the new guidelines for Regional aid, the Enabling and Procedural Regulations – on which your committee has adopted a report last week – the Research, Development and Innovation guidelines, the Risk Capital Guidelines, the Energy and Environmental Guidelines and the General Block Exemption Regulation. The bulk of our modernisation reform package will be in place before the end of your term in mid-2014.

In the merger domain, this year we will introduce procedural changes to make our review of unproblematic cases even more business friendly than it is at present. A larger proportion of transactions will be treated under a simplified process. This will reduce the amount of information to be provided by companies in non-problematic cases; it will speed up the process; and will allow us to focus on the most problematic mergers. In parallel, we are considering whether EU merger control should be extended to the acquisition of non-controlling minority shareholdings because we have seen in our practice that they too can lead to competitive harm and currently we do not have the means to tackle this problem. But this would require amending the EU Merger Regulation. A public consultation will be launched in the coming months on this possible improvement.

Another aspect we will consider for this potential reform is the referral system which concerns the allocation of merger cases between the Commission and the Member States...

There is a lot to do to take the EU out of the crisis and lead it towards a sustainable recovery. We need to fix the financial system so that credit starts to flow to the real economy again; we need to continue reducing debt levels – public and private – through a better distribution of sacrifices; and we need to support research, education and training. In parallel, we must complete the banking union project, and persist in our efforts to make goods, services and labour markets more integrated and more efficient.

Competition policy is an essential component in this policy mix, because it can unleash the potential of the Single Market; improve the business environment; and boost growth.

Full speech

See also Competition: Annual report shows how competition policy helps unlock potential of EU Single Market

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