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European Competition Forum 2012

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European Competition Forum 2013

European Competition Forum 2013

28 February 2013

Programme     Download pdf 

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Opening address: Relying on the Single Market for the future of Europe

Joaquín Almunia, Vice-President of the European Commission and member responsible for competition policy

Commissioner Almunia opened the European Competition Forum with a wide-ranging analysis of the role competition policy can play at this delicate juncture for Europe.

Opening address: Relying on the Single Market for the future of Europe

Policy development and enforcement work are intended to put competition policy in the best possible conditions to contribute to the European response to the crisis and to its efforts to restart growth and create jobs.

"I am convinced that ensuring competition in the Single Market is a pre-condition to increase the productivity of our economy", he said. Ensuring keen competiton in the internal market "does not cost a cent and works like a structural reform whose benefits can be felt over a long time".

Competition policy looks at the whole economy rather than at the success of individual firms or sectors. It spreads a healthy sense of justice in the business environment. And it sustains other growth–boosting public policies.

Finally, Commissioner Almunia stated that we should rely on the Single Market to re-launch the European project. This would bring huge benefits to the economy and to the social and political fabric of the EU.

"Europe must continue to be a symbol of prosperity, peace, democracy and solidarity" he said in closing.

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Keynote speech

  Mario Monti, Prime Minister, Italy

Prime Minister Monti stressed that more needs be done in Europe to promote competition and leverage the potential of the Single Market. "I have always been a fervent believer that competition policy and the completion of the European Single Market are key for delivering more economic activity, lower prices, and more jobs", he said. He added that preserving a central role for competition policy in the Treaty after the 2003 Convention on the Future of Europe was an important achievement: "Weathering the crisis would have been much harder without competition and State aid policy firmly in the hands of the Commission".

Mario Monti: Keynote speech

The Prime Minister called for a 'code of conduct' for European leaders: "Stop blaming Brussels for the each and every unpopular measure a government needs to take – this is ludicrous". He also recalled the measures adopted by his government over the past year to restore competitiveness in a number of sectors in Italy. According to the IMF, these reforms – if fully implemented – may add 10,5% to Italy's growth in the long run. Prime Minister Monti pointed out that structural reforms are often hard to introduce due to the well-organised resistance of vested interests and it takes time for their positive effects to become visible to citizens – which partly explains the result of Italy's election.

Prime Minister Monti addressed his closing remarks to European leaders and to the EU institutions. Growth-supporting policies must accompany measures to contain deficits. The countries that implement the necessary reforms deserve the support of their European partners. Recognising and rewarding their efforts sustains the support for reforms among citizens. "The gains from virtue must be visible – otherwise virtue will be short-lived".


The State in the global economy

Watch video >Watch video > Beda Romano, EU Affairs Correspondent, Il Sole 24 Ore
Watch video >Watch video > Marc Grynberg, CEO, Umicore
Watch video >Watch video > Eduardo Perez Motta, Head of International Competition Network, Head of Mexican Competition Authority
Watch video >Watch video > Gert Jan Koopman, Deputy Director-General State aids, Competition DG, European Commission

What is the role of State intervention in today's global economy? Should the EU engage in a global subsidy race with other world players or should it improve its industrial performance through open markets, vigorous competition and better productivity? The first panel, moderated by Beda Romano, focused on these core questions.

Panel 1: The State in the global economy

Eduardo Pérez Motta stressed the need to fight temptations to relax competition rules in times of economic downturn and to resist calls for protectionism. The price for creating "national champions" is often paid by the consumers – the "national losers". Recovery will come from "competition and market incentives".

Gert-Jan Koopman noted that the problem of Europe's low productivity growth is not market entry of new firms, but the lack of market exit of inefficient ones. He mentioned the problem of persisting market fragmentation in the Single Market. He said that "the challenge for the future will be to design State aid policy in a way that can assist with the opening-up of markets", as highlighted in the modernisation of State aid initiative and demonstrated in areas like broadband access.

Marc Grynberg spoke of the positive experience of industry with support granted to innovative sectors such as the recycling industry for waste of electric and electronic equipment. In these sectors, ambitious EU regulation has spurred innovation which led to European companies becoming global market leaders. Subsidies to end consumers have proven to be much less effective than focused support to technological development.

Watch video >Watch video > Panel discussion

Competition, innovation and the Single Market

Watch video >Watch video > Kai-Uwe Kühn, Chief Economist, Competition DG, European Commission
Watch video >Watch video > John T. Chambers, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Cisco Systems Inc.
Watch video >Watch video > Sharon Bowles MEP, Chair of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, European Parliament
Watch video >Watch video > William Kennard, US Ambassador to the EU
Watch video >Watch video > Xavier Vives, Special Advisor to Vice-President Almunia; Academic Director of Public-Private Research Center, IESE Business School

The second panel moderated by Kai-Uwe Kühn focused on the relationship between competition and innovation. Does competition in high-tech markets benefit innovation? Should competition authorities intervene to ensure interoperability and access to networks? What should be done to stop market fragmentation within the Single Market so that innovation in Europe can occur on a greater scale?

Panel 2: Competition, innovation and the Single Market

John T. Chambers spoke of his experience at the helm of a high-tech world player. He said that "to ensure that businesses and consumers reap the full benefit of the internet transformation, government and industry must work together to stay ahead the curve so that markets remain open, dynamic, and competitive". The next generation internet will "empower people, create economic opportunities and enrich lives". Interoperability and open access is key.

William Kennard recalled that "innovation begins with people". He spoke of the dramatic youth unemployment levels in Europe that threaten to lead to a "lost generation" of innovators. He called upon EU policy makers to act to reverse this trend. The EU needs to foster interoperable systems "that innovators can plug into". He also argued that "Europe would attract more US investment if there was a deeper Single Market." He concluded on the opportunities for growth that will flow from the "largest free-trade agreement ever negotiated" between the EU and the US.

Sharon Bowles MEP referred to the European legislative framework on intellectual and industrial property. She said that the patent protection system should be improved internationally, and also believed that "access to finance for entrepreneurs should be facilitated" across the Single Market.

Xavier Vives mentioned that innovation can flourish when competition is strong, products substitutable, and barriers to entry low. However, he also warned that in "some instances cooperation between competitors, such as on research and development, can lead to collusive outcomes", and this is a challenge for competition authorities.

Watch video >Watch video > Panel discussion

The Single Market for financial services and competition policy

Watch video >Watch video > Peter Spiegel, Brussels bureau chief, Financial Times
Watch video >Watch video > Xavier Rolet, CEO, London Stock Exchange
Watch video >Watch video > Peter Praet, Member of the Executive Board, European Central Bank
Watch video >Watch video > Nadia Calviño, Deputy Director General, Internal Market & Services DG, European Commission. PresentationPowerPoint file
Watch video >Watch video > Lars-Hendrik Röller, Economic Adviser to the German Chancellor
Watch video >Watch video > Jordi Gual, Chief Economist and Head of Research, La Caixa

The last panel moderated by Peter Spiegel analysed the lessons learnt by European authorities during the financial crisis. Panellists looked at the impact of the current fragmentation in the Single Market on financial stability and competition. For instance, is there a trade-off between financial stability and competition? Is financial regulation going to weaken competition inside the Single Market? What is the role of the banking union project in the current context?

Nadia Calviño said there is "no trade-off between competition and financial stability". Speaking of the new regulatory framework for financial services, she said it seeks to achieve a "level playing field for all financial institutions, and a real internal market for financial services." Competition enforcement can play an important role in sanctioning behaviour such as has emerged in the Libor scandal. Looking forward, "sustainable growth is a top priority for the Commission". The Single Market is Europe's "strongest asset", and we need "the right financial infrastructure that lends to the real economy and deals with long-term finance needs."

Panel 3: The Single Market for financial services and competition policy

Lars-Hendrik Röller thought market failures in financial markets are best dealt with at European level and Europe is delivering the regulatory environment and the new capital requirements. In contrast, the common supervision and resolution mechanism still raise political issues. Control and liability need to remain very closely linked. He also touched upon the main topics for the G20: shadow banking and global corporate taxes. "The likes of Google and GE do not pay taxes anymore," he said.

Jordi Gual spoke critically of State aid to banks in distress. Europe's schemes have identified the problems of the banking sectors, but which banks are systemic and which should be allowed to fail? Not all bailed-out banks will return to viability and repay the aid. Finally, even if Europe had a common regulation and resolution authority, we would still have a "trilemma" between stability, competition and minimising costs.

Xavier Rolet recalled that "finance is about funding investment, commerce and industry, and creating jobs". He pointed out that there are "23 million SMEs in Europe" and that their "number one issue is access to appropriately priced capital". Europe cannot continue to rely solely on bank lending. "We have to rely on alternative sources of funding". He urged European policy-makers to address these issues when designing the new regulatory framework for finance.

Peter Praet agreed that European policy makers need to look at finance to SMEs and find alternatives to the "high bank intermediation in Europe". Speaking of the lessons learnt during the crisis, he believed that "competition authorities should also take a system-wide approach. They should look at the competitive landscape as a whole." A big difficulty for policy makers drafting the future regulatory framework is the "risk of creating pro-cyclical behaviour, and risks of front-loading". He also spoke of the banking resolution issues, saying that the "resolution issue is key". As to the separation between monetary policy and banking supervision the key issue is not to have "silos" but to be very clear about the respective mandates."

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Closing address

  Alexander Italianer, Director-General, Competition DG, European Commission
Vice-President Almunia with guest Forum speakers, and senior staff of his cabinet and the Competition DG
Vice-President Almunia with guest Forum speakers, and senior staff of his cabinet and the Competition DG