Letter to the Editor: Competition Policy in the EU

September 30, 2017

The following Letter to the Editor regarding EU competition policy was written by partner Alec Burnside in response to The Economist's article "Is Margrethe Vestager championing consumers or her political career?," published on September 16.

Your article on Margrethe Vestager, the EU's competition commissioner, misrepresents the issue with sweetheart-tax deals ("Big Tech’s nemesis", September 16th). The control of government subsidies is not about competition between firms: it is about competition between governments to attract inward investment. You say that “it is a stretch to use state-aid rules to achieve the sort of tax harmonisation that is favoured in Brussels”. But ambitious use of antitrust powers has long been the tool of choice for breaking legislative logjams. That was how telecoms and energy liberalisation kicked off, and how EU policy on mergers came to be.

At least your criticisms of the commission’s process as “prosecutor, judge and executioner” resonate with me. But you give no weight to the safeguards that have been grafted onto the system, implying that the commissioner rules by whim. Not so.

Competition law is an important area of power for the commission, and holders of Ms Vestager’s office have always been in the spotlight. It is not a failing on her part that she is an effective communicator. It does not justify your ad feminam headline that she is championing her own political career rather than looking out for consumers.

Read on The Economist website here.