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1. Competition policy – cornerstone of the internal market

“Commission authorises A’s proposed acquisition of B…”

“Commission clears takeover of C…”

“Commission opens in-depth investigation into D’s takeover of…”

“Commission approves E’s proposed acquisition of control over…”

Reading the daily Commission press communiqués, one is struck by the great number of them concerning competition cases. Big headlines on these issues are also regularly found in the media.

Competition policy is one of the oldest policy areas and has developed considerably over the years. It is also one of the policies with the most concrete, visual results.

The core of the internal market is the maintenance of a level playing field throughout the EU for businesses to compete. Effective competition policy encourages economic efficiency and creates a favourable climate for growth, innovation and technological progress while pushing down prices. Thus competition policy is the cornerstone of the internal European market.

The European Commission has “wide powers to make sure businesses and governments stick to European Union rules on fair play in trade in goods and services, while allowing governments to step in if markets are failing consumers or business, or to promote innovation, unified standards, or small business development.”

In recent high-profile cases, the Commission has locked horns with companies like Microsoft and Danone. In the spring of 2007, the Commission regulators imposed their largest fine ever for price-fixing: five international elevator makers were fined €992 million for operating cartels in Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, to the detriment of taxpayers, property developers and public authorities.

The main areas of EU’s competition policy are: antitrust, cartels, mergers, liberalisation, state aid and international cooperation.

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