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Boosting the Enforcement of EU Competition Law at Domestic Level

International Conference  -  3 June 2016

Faculty of Law, Radboud University Nijmegen


General information

The role of the EU competition law rules in shaping the EU Internal Market can hardly be overstated. The EU substantive rules dealing with cartels, abuse of dominance and state aids have ensured in the past decades a much desired unity of the law applied in the diverse European markets. Moreover, Regulation 1/2003 paved the way for furthering the substantive convergence of the European and domestic competition law rules. This can be rightfully labelled as an important step in achieving a common competition culture in Europe. Another important development is the ambitious State Aid Modernisation Programme (SAM) started by the Commission in 2012, which has now been almost completed. With this modernisation, the Commission launched a renewed partnership with the member states in the field of the state aid rules.

The recent years have proven to be quite challenging on the enforcement end. Especially since the landmark date of 1 May 2004, when domestic bodies were granted a key role in the fight against cartels and market power abuses, competition law seems to have fought its biggest battles on the enforcement front. While recently the Private Damages Directive 2014/104 seems to have taken the spotlight, certain developments seem imminent with regard to the role played by the domestic courts and competition authorities in the public enforcement of the EU competition law rules. In this respect, boosting the enforcement powers of the domestic bodies catches ground in the last years’ agenda. This is because the powers conferred by Regulation 1/2003 on such bodies can only reach so far, and soft-law instruments often lack the strength necessary to develop an effective enforcement toolbox. Therefore, a deeper convergence and a more consistent enforcement of the competition rules seem to require furthering the domestic capabilities of the concerned domestic bodies.

The Commission Notice on the enforcement of state aid law by national courts of April 2009 underlines the key role of national courts in the enforcement of the EU state aid rules. National courts are called upon to apply these rules in a variety of situations: parties affected by unlawful state aid granted in violation of Article 108(3) TFEU can bring a case before a national court, disputes may arise before national courts pertaining to the enforcement of recovery decisions adopted by the Commission, actions for damages may also reach national courts, etc. Moreover, with the adoption of Regulation No. 651/2014/EU (General Block Exemption Regulation) in June 2014 further categories of measures were exempted from notification to the Commission. This regulation has direct effect in the legal systems of the member states. Application of this regulation may thus lead to more disputes before national courts.

The main challenge is how to accomplish the goal of further boosting the enforcement of the EU competition law rules at domestic level. A 2014 Commission Communication, followed by a 2015 public consultation suggest institutional, investigative and decision-making upgrades in the domestic ambits. Is this sufficient however, in order to achieve the long-term goals of more forceful enforcement? Is EU law sufficiently well equipped to smoothly handle and implement such upgrades? Do the domestic sanctioning regimes require more convergence? The (infamous) Commission investigations concerning tax rulings (Starbucks, Fiat Finance and Trade, Apple, Amazon and McDonald’s) have recently captured the attention of the media. In January 2016 the European Parliament adopted a remarkable resolution. This states that, if the Commission decides that a member state should recover money from a company due to an infringement of the state aid rules, this money should not be returned to the offending member state, but to member states that have suffered an erosion of their tax bases or to the EU budget. This raises a number of important questions concerning the role of the national courts with regard to the enforcement of recovery decisions. Furthermore, viewed from a broader standpoint, are these envisaged developments capable of accomplishing the goals of a more streamlined and coherent competition culture in Europe?

These are only some of the questions on which we invite interested parties (practitioners, judges, academics, etc.) to brainstorm during the one-day International Conference: ‘Boosting the Enforcement of EU Competition Law at Domestic Level’, organized by the Law Faculty of Radboud University Nijmegen, on 3 June, 2016. During this conference two sessions will take place:

EU antitrust law enforcement activities

Two keynote speeches will be delivered in this session:

  • Peter Whelan, Deputy Director at the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies, School of Law, University of Leeds will discuss issues relating to the criminal enforcement of EU / national competition law in the EU Member States.
  • Monique van Oers, director of the Legal Department of the Dutch Competition Authority (ACM), will discuss the different tools which the ACM has in the enforcement of EU and national competition law in the Netherlands.

The papers accepted for presentation during this session will be discussed in detail by Prof. Pieter Kuypers, lawyer at AKD Brussels and Professor of European and national public procurement law at the Radboud University.

Enforcement developments in EU state aid law

A keynote speech will be delivered in this session:

  • Jules Stuyck, Lawyer at Liedekerke Wolters Waelbroeck Kirkpatrick, Brussels, will discuss the latest enforcement developments in the domestic ambits, in the field of state aids.

The papers accepted for presentation during this session will be discussed in detail by Prof. Johan van de Gronden, judge at the Dutch Council of State and Professor of the Law of European Integration at the Radboud University.

Call for Papers

We invite interested parties, practitioners or members of the academic community to submit proposals for papers for this International Conference. More information on the call for papers may be found by clicking here or on the link on the left panel in the menu.

Registration and Payment

More information on registration and payment for this conference may be found by clicking here or on the link on the left panel in the menu.