European Commissioner for Competition

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European Commissioner
for Competition
Joaquin Almunia Mercosul.jpg
Incumbent
Joaquín Almunia

since 9 February 2010
Appointer Jose Manuel Barroso[1]
Term length Five years
Inaugural holder Hans von der Groeben
Formation 1958
Salary €22,122.10 per month[2][3]
Website European Commission

The Commissioner for Competition is the member of the European Commission responsible for competition. The current commissioner is Joaquín Almunia (S&D) who is also a Commission Vice-President.

Responsibilities[edit]

The portfolio has responsibility for such matters as commercial competition, company mergers, cartels, state aid, and anti-trust law. The position became the sole merger authority for the European Economic Area in September 1990.

The Competition Commissioner is one of the most powerful positions in the Commission and is notable in affecting global companies.[4] For example, notably preventing the merge of two US companies, General Electric and Honeywell, in 2001.[5] In 2007, Neelie Kroes (then-Competition Commissioner) was the only Commissioner to make Forbes Magazine's List of The World's 100 Most Powerful Women; she held position 59.[6]

Joaquín Almunia (incumbent)[edit]

European Union
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This article is part of a series on the
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Joaquín Almunia, previously the Finance Commissioner, took on the competition portfolio under the second Barroso Commission in 2010. His appointment was welcomed by competition lawyers as someone well qualified and experienced.[7] He also impressed Parliament at his hearing and early on in his work has had to deal with whether or not to pursue action against Google.[8] He has also come out in favour of the idea of a European Monetary Fund to deal with defaulting member states.[9] It is not expected that his tenure will see a relaxing of enforcement from Kroes' strict regime.[7]

Neelie Kroes (2004–2010)[edit]

During Neelie Kroes' hearing at the European Parliament, MEPs expressed concern about whether Ms Kroes had a sufficiently detailed grasp of certain specific subjects, but was approved as part of the Commission in 2004.

Since then she states that she promotes a fair and free business environment, achieving sustainable economic growth and higher employment. The Commission has been involved in a number of high-profile cases fighting anticompetitive behaviour; such as the case against the merger of SonyBMG, against Apple Inc. regarding iTunes[10] and the ongoing case against Microsoft.

Neelie Kroes

The latter has been an ongoing dispute on a number of issues, in April 2007 Microsoft became the first company to refuse to comply with the Commissions rulings, in response Commissioner Kroes is looking at more harsher methods to gain the co-operation of companies; "We have never, ever before encountered a company that has refused to comply with commission decisions ... We learned we may have to look for a more effective remedy."[11] In September 2007, the Court of First Instance (EU's second highest court) upheld the Commission's decision to fine Microsoft 497 million euro and its order for to Microsoft for it to share its information setting what the Commission described as an "important precedent". Kroes stated that "Today's court ruling…shows that the Commission was right to take its decision, and right to take firm action to enforce that decision". Either party may appeal to the European Court of Justice.[12] In response to the ruling the US Justice Departments top antitrust official, Thomas Barnett, criticised the ruling which sparked a response from Kroes stating that "It is totally unacceptable that a representative of the US administration criticises an independent court of law outside its jurisdiction ... It is absolutely not on. The European Commission does not pass judgement on rulings by US courts and we expect the same degree of respect from US authorities for rulings by EU courts."[13]

Kroes holds a strong belief in free market principles and was tough with offenders. By the time term term as Competition Commissioner ended, she had completed most major cases.[7]

Mario Monti (1999–2004)[edit]

Mario Monti

Mario Monti is particularly notable for his ruling during the GE-Honeywell merger attempt in 2001. General Electric, a US company, sought to acquire another US company, Honeywell. This merger had been approved by US authorities, however Monti, with the backing of the rest of the Commission, rejected the merger;[5]

The merger between GE and Honeywell, as it was notified, would have severely reduced competition in the aerospace industry and resulted ultimately in higher prices for customers, particularly airlines. However, there were ways of eliminating these concerns and allowing the merger to proceed. I regret that the companies were not able to agree on a solution that would have met the Commission's competition concerns.

Rather than be blocked from the European market, the merger was abandoned. This was the first time that a merger between two US companies had been blocked solely by European authorities,[14] only the second time it had blocked just two US companies and only the 15th merger it had blocked ever since it started work.[5] On 1 May 2004 Monti oversaw a radical change in the Competition powers of the Commission concerning anti-trust regulation, merger controls, licensing agreements and air transport.[15]

List of commissioners[edit]

Name Country Period Commission
1 Hans von der Groeben  West Germany 1958–1967 Hallstein Commission
2 Maan Sassen  Netherlands 1967–1971 Rey Commission
3 Albert Borschette  Luxembourg 1971–1972
1972–1973
1973–1976
Malfatti Commission
Mansholt Commission
Ortoli Commission
4 Raymond Vouel  Luxembourg 1976–1981 Jenkins Commission
5 Frans Andriessen  Netherlands 1981–1985 Thorn Commission
6 Peter Sutherland  Ireland 1985–1989 Delors Commission I
7 Leon Brittan  United Kingdom 1989–1993 Delors Commission II
8 Karel Van Miert  Belgium 1993–1994
1995–1999
Delors Commission III
Santer Commission
9 Mario Monti  Italy 1999–2004 Prodi Commission
10 Neelie Kroes  Netherlands 2004–2010 Barroso Commission I
11 Joaquín Almunia  Spain 2010–present Barroso Commission II

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Almunia was proposed by the Government of Spain, with the post of Competition Commissioner being assigned by Barroso. The whole Commission was then nominated by the Council of the European Union and approved by the European Parliament.
  2. ^ REGULATION No 422/67/EEC, 5/67/EURATOM OF THE COUNCIL, EurLex
  3. ^ Base salary of grade 16, third step is €17,697.68: European Commission: Officials' salaries – accessed 19 March 2010
  4. ^ Lungescu, Oana (23 July 2004). "Examining the EU executive". BBC News. Retrieved 18 September 2007. 
  5. ^ a b c The Commission prohibits GE's acquisition of Honeywell europa.eu
  6. ^ 100 Most Powerful Women Forbes
  7. ^ a b c Who’s who in the new Commission, Financial Times November 2009
  8. ^ Accusations will test new commissioner, Financial Times
  9. ^ EU’s Almunia Says EMF Would Be a Long-Term Solution (Update1) Business Week
  10. ^ Brussels Accuses iTunes of Violating Competition Rules spiegel.de
  11. ^ Microsoft dispute a lesson, EU says seattletimes.nwsource.com
  12. ^ Microsoft case sets precedent, says Brussels EU observer
  13. ^ Spongenberg, Helena (20 September 2007) US remarks on Microsoft ruling 'unacceptable', says Kroes, EU Observer
  14. ^ Honeywell CEO's job reported on line after takeover is rejected money.cnn.com
  15. ^ The EU gets new competition powers for the 21st century ec.europa.eu

External links[edit]