As European Commissioner Joaquin Almunia is set to exit his post later this year, the future of the EU’s antitrust regulation is in question.
Reports say Almunia, who started his position in 2010, launched the European Commission into an era of activism, going beyond breaking up anticompetitive cartels and reviewing mergers, and moving into broader areas of regulation, including the ongoing patent wars.
Experts say Almunia has pushed the boundaries of competition policy in Europe, but reports say the trend could enter into risky territory as the authority faces pressure to use its antitrust powers for goals that are not directly related to market competition.
As part of this trend, for example, the Commission recently launched an investigation into the tax practices of Apple, Starbucks and others, as well as of several EU member states. Reports say the investigation is related to competition because certain tax breaks could be seen as unfair state aid offered to the companies.
But the case could also be an example of how competition law is used for other purposes, for example, how to close tax loopholes that lead to corporate tax avoidance.
Full content: Wall Street Journal
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