Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on European Antitrust. Mere Adaptations or Real Changes?
18 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2020
Date Written: June 10, 2020
The European Commission and the competition authorities of the EU member states responded to the coronavirus crisis with assurances about sufficient flexibility of their instruments. They enabled temporary cooperation between competitors to ensure the supply of essential medical products and services. At the same time, they warned against any misuse of the crisis for overpricing or other monopolistic practices. However, the crisis has also intensified long-term pressures for a fundamental adaptation of European competition rules. The first challenge is represented by Chinese state-backed enterprises as potential acquirers of weakened European competitors. The second source of pressure is the increasingly dominant role of global online platforms. Their role as an irreplaceable infrastructure for management, communication, counselling and distance learning was reinforced in the coronavirus crisis. The Commission and other experts are already discussing appropriate responses. This paper maps the discussion on possible EU responses to these challenges and tries to show the strengths and weaknesses of the proposed solutions and on this basis to estimate the future development of EU antitrust in the post-coronavirus period.
Keywords: Covid-19, antitrust, Chinese state-owned enterprises, online platforms, public utilities, ex-post and ex-ante regulation
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