22 Competition Day in Zagreb

The welcome speech at the 22rd competition conference of the Croatian Competition Agency organized in partnership with the European Commission’s Representation in Croatia was given by the president of the Competition Council, Mladen Cerovac, followed by a word of Nataša Mikuš Žigman, state secretary in the Ministry of the Economy, Entrepreneurship and Crafts, Branko Baričević, ambassador, head of the European Commission Representation in the Republic of Croatia and Kris Dekeyser, director for Policy and Strategy, EC, DG COMP.

In two panel discussions the conference was dealing with the current issues of competition policy and merger control in the context of public interest and the newly adopted ECN+ Directive and its transposition in the national legal system.

The panel discussions included Kris Dekeyser, EC, DG COMP, Bogdan Chirițoiu, chairman of the Romanian Competition Council, Gianluca Sepe, from the Italian Competition Authority, Michaela Nosa, from the Antimonopoly Office of the Slovak Republic, Natalie Harsdorf,  from the Federal Competition Authority of Austria, Jasminka Pecotić Kaufman from the Faculty of Economics and Business in Zagreb, Vlatka Butorac Malnar from the Faculty of Law in Rijeka and Dubravka Akšamović, from the Faculty of Law in Osijek.

The panel about the ECN+ Directive and its implications for the national competition authorities was moderated by Mirta Kapural, member of the Croatian Competition Council, whereas the second panel on the interface between the competition policy, the merger assessment and the public interest was moderated by Siniša Petrović from the Faculty of Law in Zagreb.

The first ECN+ Directive panel included the issues of transposition of its text to the national legislative framework bearing in mind that ECN+ Directive empowers the competition authorities of Member States to be more effective enforcers of the EU competition law as to ensure the proper functioning on the internal market.

In a nutshell, the ECN+ Directive sets out certain rules to ensure that national competition authorities have the necessary guarantees of independence, resources, and enforcement and fining powers to be able to effectively apply the EU competition law. These powers particularly include the power to inspect business and other premises, requests for information, interviews, interim measures and commitments. It also includes fines on undertakings and associations of undertakings and periodic penalty payments. The ECN+ Directive entered into force in February 2019 with a transposition period for the Member States until February 2021.

The second panel discussion about the interface of merger control and the public interest covered the very purpose of merger control to ensure that mergers and acquisitions do not permanently distort competition and harm the consumers. The rules that apply in this area impose the assessment of compatibility of the concentrations with an EU dimension – concentrations that can produce significant anticompetitive effects and eliminate or limit competition in the internal market or a significant part thereof. In this context it was noted that in the period of ten years, from 2009 to 2019 the European Commission blocked only 9 mergers and allowed 3,000.

The conference was visited by a considerable number of experts in the area of competition from Croatia and abroad which welcomed this conference as a place for sharing experience and ideas.

We are looking forward to the next European Competition Day in April 2020 in Croatia as the European Council presiding country.