In May, CPI conducted in interview with Yannis Katsoulacos, the founder and organizer of the CRESSE Annual International Summer School and Conference in Competition and Regulation, concerning the history, impact and future of the summer school and conference.
CRESSE Summer School Interview With CPI
 Athens University of Economics and Business. In 2005 he initiated and since then he is in charge for organizing the CRESSE Annual International Summer School and Conference in Competition and Regulation.
- CPI: Could you give us a little background on CRESSE . When did it start? What triggered this initiative?
Yannis: I initiated discussions on establishing CRESSE in 2005. The main people that were then involved were Patrick Rey, Massimo Motta and David Ulph. The first conference and Summer School were organized in the first weekend of July 2006 in Corfu, Greece. Since then the conference takes place in the first weekend of July every year, over three days (Friday to Sunday), usually in one of the “big” Greek islands (Crete, Corfu or Rhodes).
The initiative was triggered by the fact that there was no forum at least in Europe, but I think also throughout the world, for bringing together regularly active researchers with a focus in the areas of competition and regulation economics to present latest research in these areas in contributed sessions. CRESSE’s original and primary objective was to provide a forum for the regular discussion of the latest research specializing in competition and regulation.
Soon after it was established CRESSE got very active and extremely helpful support by a number of other people that joined the Scientific Committee—people like Joe Harrington, Pierre Regibeau and Tom Ross—and, later, by an Advisory Board, composed of Frederic Jenny, Bill Kovacic, Aviv Nevo and Howard Shelansky, and a group of the CRESSE Associates—a group that consists of many of the foremost economists, legal experts and practitioners in the world in the area of competition that you can see on our website.2
- CPI: CRESSE’s Summer School has helped promote the globalization of competition law and the creation of a valuable network for the exchange of ideas, techniques and experiences. How would you judge the impact of CRESSE’s efforts in developing this ‘antitrust community’?
Yannis: From the very beginning we decided that it was important to combine the conference with a Summer School offering an intensive 96 hour / 12-day program of teaching with extensive coverage of all aspects of antitrust, merger and regulation economics. This is today targeted to economists, as in 2014 we also intitated the Lawyers Course, a 35 hour / 4-day program of economics designed for lawyers. As from this year, we are complementing these training programs with the Advanced Short Courses, targeted to Senior Economists in Competition Authorities, Consultancies as well as PhD students. The Conference and the training programs have created a very valuable, truly international, network for the exchange of research and policy ideas, techniques and experiences. In recent years the Conference is attended by about 150 academics (both from economics and law), policy makers and practitioners (from many of the major competition consultancies worldwide), and the training programs by about 50 professionals. The about 200 attendees come from all corners of the world. While still the majority comes from Europe, Canada and the US, close to 20% of participants in the conference and the training events now come from the BRICS and other developing countries. This means that CRESSE is having a very significant impact in promoting the globalisation of competition law and creating an international antitrust community. This can also be testified by the fact that in the last five years it is increasingly been asked to co-organise summer schools, review workshops and conferences with local universities and competition authorities throughout the developing world: Brazil, Chile, China, India, Russia, South Africa, Thailand, Vietnam (for the APEC organization), Korea (for ICN and OECD).
- CPI: Nowadays international competition law and economics conferences abound. Apart from the obvious crowding of the field, what issues define the new ‘competitive environment’ for CRESSE?
Yannis: There are many more conferences and workshops been organized now than in 2005 but I do not think that there is overcrowding. The reason is that the demand for such events throughout the world has also exploded in the last 10 years as authorities and regulators have expanded and become much more active and the number of authroties saw a tremendous increase to reach 130 worldwide at present. The new authorities have a very large appetite for information and knowledge. Thus the “new environment” is characterized by a tremendous growth in demand and, as one would expect, a subsequent growth in the “supply” of services in the form of conferences and workshops. This dynamic has been further magnified by the new and difficult challenges to enforcers, from the rise of platforms, the increased concentration, the emergence of new market and business models and the lack of a harmonized international legal order, the implications of which and the potential enforcement solutions for which need to be constantly debated. The growth in the role and involvement of international organisations and networks such as ICN, ECN and OECD is a significant aspect of this “new environment”.
- CPI: What is CRESSE doing in order to evolve with the changing tide in Antitrust and continue to offer incisive thought leadership?
Yannis: CRESSE’s primary objective is twofold: one is to stay at the top of a very important niche “market” that is part of this international environment—the market related to the dissemination and discussion of the latest academic research by economists throughout the world in all the main areas of competition and regulation. We strive in the conference program to include as many as possible of the new ideas emerging out of academic research worldwide every year. To support this objective, from very early on, CRESSE has been seeking the collaboration of the best academic journals in the field in publishing Special Issues with articles selected from among those presented in the CRESSE conferences. This endeavor has been very successful. A number of special issues have already been produced by Journal of Industrial Economics (2009), International Journal of Industrial Organization (IJIO, 2016 and 2018) and Review of Industrial Organization (2018). Additional Special Issues are been planned by IJIO in 2020 and the Journal of Antitrust Enforcement in 2019. A number of volumes with articles presented in CRESSE covering specific topics (such as enforcement in developing countries, enforcement towards excessive pricing etc) have also been published.
The second primary objective is to stay very close and provide valuable support to emerging policy needs in the areas of competition and regulation. To achieve this, in the last 7 years CRESSE has been organizing every year a number of Special Policy Sessions (SPS). These are sessions in which prominent academics (from both law and economics) come together with policy makers and enforcers and with professional practitioners, to debate, exchange ideas and make suggestions towards improving our understanding of the most important challenges facing enforcers throughout the world. The selection of topics for SPSs and of the persons that will participate in the panels is made following a request for suggestions and discsussions with a very large number of individuals (from academia, the policy world and the wider community of competition professionals) that starts very soon after a Conference.
Again, CRESSE has sought to support this activity by collaborating with CPI’s Antitrust Chronicle which, as from 2017, is publishing a special issue with policy articles based on presentations made in the SPSs every year.
- CPI: What inspired you to create and dedicate nearly 15 years of your career to CRESSE and how do you see your role in the future?
Yannis: The challenge.
Plus, the opportunity to belong to and coordinate a large network of prominent researchers and other professionals from the consultancy and policy world. The challenge to maintain the momentum and CRESSE’s position in the international antitrust community as an important facilitator of knowledge diffusion remains and in the coming years I will be ready to continue contributing in meeting this challenge.
- CPI: Going forward, how do you see the ecosystem in global competition thought leadership and advocacy evolving with the influence of the likes of the ICN, the OECD, think tanks and universities, the EU and the US, etc.? Will different players have different roles?
Yannis: International organisations have a very important role to play in encouraging knowledge diffusion, minimizing impediments to knowledge transfer and advocating for a broader reach of competition policy than envisaged by the original advocates of antitrust law, especially in the developing world. They are also very important in developing international cooperation between competition authorities. I am not sure whether they have been responding to these roles at the optimal level. This can be seen from recent demands for and attempts to activate additional transnational institutions as for example by the group of BRICS or the groups of South East Asian countries.
CRESSE has a very complementary role to play to these organisations which is to identify all the new innovative ideas, models and tools emerging from academic research and to disseminate these as widely as possible through the annual conference in Greece and through the review and training workshops in which it is involved in co-organizing worldwide.
- CPI: If pushed, what would you say are the two or three key issues that need to be resolved for competition law and policy to be effective and efficient worldwide?
Yannis: The three issues we perceive as needing most urgent resolution are:
(i) how to deal with the market power of platforms through the right mix of antitrust and regulatory measures, and the appropriate design of remedies;
(ii) how to design effective assessment procedures that will account for the impact on innovation in antitrust and merger enforcement;
(iii) in a world of globalized business in which antitrust enforcers in different countries have diverse objectives and priorities, how to ensure appropriate reach or restraint of national jurisdiction and develop international cooperation mechanisms. Many of the underlying issues and suggestions for solutions are described in recent writings by Eleanor Fox.
1 Athens University of Economics and Business. In 2005 he initiated and since then he is in charge for organizing the CRESSE Annual International Summer School and Conference in Competition and Regulation.
2 The page referred is http://www.cresse.info/default.aspx?articleID=3379