European Commissioner for Competition

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European Commissioner
for Competition
Flag of the EU
Margrethe Vestager
since 1 November 2014
Member ofthe European Commission
Reports toPresident of the European Commission
Term length5 years
Formation7 January 1958; 66 years ago (1958-01-07)
First holderHans von der Groeben

The Commissioner for Competition is the member of the European Commission responsible for competition. The current commissioner is Margrethe Vestager (ALDE).


The portfolio has responsibility for such matters as commercial competition, company mergers, cartels, state aid, and antitrust 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 indeed the world, and is notable in affecting global regulatory practices in a phenomenon known as the Brussels effect.[1] For example, preventing the merger of two US companies, General Electric and Honeywell, in 2001.[2] 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.[3]

Past commissioners[edit]

Mario Monti (1999–2004)[edit]

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;[2]

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,[4] only the second time it had blocked just two US companies and only the 15th merger it had blocked ever since it started work.[2] On 1 May 2004 Monti oversaw a radical change in the Competition powers of the Commission concerning antitrust regulation, merger controls, licensing agreements and air transport.[5]

Neelie Kroes (2004–10)[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[6] and the ongoing case against Microsoft.

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."[7] 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.[8] 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."[9]

Kroes holds a strong belief in free market principles and was tough with offenders. By the time her term as Competition Commissioner ended, she had completed most major cases.[10]

Joaquín Almunia (2010–14)[edit]

Joaquín Almunia, previously the Finance Commissioner, took on the competition portfolio under the second Barroso Commission in 2010 and was expected to have a tenure similar to Kroes' stringent run.[10] His appointment was welcomed by competition lawyers as someone well qualified and experienced.[10] 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.[11] He has also come out in favour of the idea of a European Monetary Fund to deal with defaulting member states.[12]

Margrethe Vestager (since 2014)[edit]

List of commissioners[edit]

No. Picture Commissioner for Competition Took office Left office Time in office Party European Country Commission
Hans von der Groeben
Groeben, HansHans von der Groeben
7 January 19582 July 19679 years, 176 daysIndependent IndependentGermany, West West GermanyHallstein
Maan Sassen
Sassen, MaanMaan Sassen
30 June 196730 June 19703 years, 0 daysKVP Independent NetherlandsRey
Albert Borschette
Borschette, AlbertAlbert Borschette
1 July 197020 July 19766 years, 19 daysIndependent Independent LuxembourgMalfatti
Raymond Vouel
Vouel, RaymondRaymond Vouel
21 July 19766 January 19814 years, 170 daysLSAP PES LuxembourgOrtoli
Frans Andriessen
Andriessen, FransFrans Andriessen
6 January 19815 January 19853 years, 365 daysKVP EPP NetherlandsThorn
Peter Sutherland
Sutherland, PeterPeter Sutherland
7 January 19855 January 19894 years, 0 daysFine Gael EPP IrelandDelors
Leon Brittan
Brittan, LeonLeon Brittan
6 January 19895 January 19933 years, 365 daysConservative ED United KingdomDelors
Karel Van Miert
Miert, KarelKarel Van Miert
6 January 199313 September 19996 years, 250 dayssp.a PES BelgiumDelors
Mario Monti
Monti, MarioMario Monti
(born 1943)
15 September 199930 October 20045 years, 45 daysIndependent Independent ItalyProdi
Neelie Kroes
Kroes, NeelieNeelie Kroes
(born 1941)
22 November 20049 February 20105 years, 79 daysVVD ELDR NetherlandsBarroso I
Joaquín Almunia
Almunia, JoaquínJoaquín Almunia
(born 1948)
9 February 20101 November 20144 years, 265 daysPSOE PES SpainBarroso II
Margrethe Vestager
Vestager, MargretheMargrethe Vestager
(born 1968)
1 November 2014Incumbent9 years, 167 daysSocial Liberals ALDE DenmarkJuncker
Von der Leyen

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lungescu, Oana (23 July 2004). "Examining the EU executive". BBC News. Retrieved 18 September 2007.
  2. ^ a b c The Commission prohibits GE's acquisition of Honeywell
  3. ^ 100 Most Powerful Women Archived 4 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine Forbes
  4. ^ Honeywell CEO's job reported on line after takeover is rejected
  5. ^ The EU gets new competition powers for the 21st century Archived 28 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Brussels Accuses iTunes of Violating Competition Rules
  7. ^ Microsoft dispute a lesson, EU says
  8. ^ Microsoft case sets precedent, says Brussels EU observer
  9. ^ Spongenberg, Helena (20 September 2007) US remarks on Microsoft ruling 'unacceptable', says Kroes, EU Observer
  10. ^ a b c Who’s who in the new Commission, Financial Times November 2009
  11. ^ Accusations will test new commissioner, Financial Times
  12. ^ EU’s Almunia Says EMF Would Be a Long-Term Solution (Update1)[dead link] Business Week

External links[edit]