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Overview > Competition instruments

All competition regulations and guidelines that apply to the transport sector are on the legislation pages, where you will also find links to laws that apply to the transport sector in general, and archives of historical policies.


In recent years, as more transport markets have been liberalised, a key objective of competition policy has been to bring transport within the generally applicable competition law framework. Council Regulation No 1/2003, which defines the extent of the Commission's investigative and enforcement powers, now covers the implementation of the competition rules for all transport activities.

Many regulations granting exemptions to some transport activities have been repealed over the years. As a result, there are now only a very limited number of sector-specific regulations in the transport sector. The most recent block exemption for maritime consortia entered into force in April 2010, and will apply until 25 April 2020.

Merger control

Mergers and acquisitions with a European dimension are reviewed under the Merger Regulation in order to ensure that effective competition in transport markets in the EU is not impeded.

In particular, the Commission examines concentrations in passenger and freight/cargo transport activities, such as maritime, road and rail transport and logistics.

Air transport mergers have been a particular focus in recent years, in light of the ongoing industry consolidation (see for instance the mergers British Airways/Iberia, United Airlines/Continental and US Airways/American Airlines). In October 2013, the Commission approved the acquisition of Olympic Air by Aegean Airlines. This transaction concerned a merger of two Greek carriers based at the same "home" airport, Athens, with very high if not monopoly market shares on a significant number of Greek domestic routes. The merger had been notified and rejected in 2011. However, under changing economic conditions following the Greek crisis, the parties notified the transaction again in early 2013. The Commission's investigation showed that Olympic Air would be forced to exit the market due to financial difficulties if not acquired by Aegean. Once Olympic would be out of business, Aegean would become the only significant domestic service provider and would capture Olympic's current market shares. Therefore, with or without the merger, Olympic would soon disappear as a competitor to Aegean. The merger was deemed to cause no harm to competition that would not have occurred anyway.

Mergers in the rail sector were also of particular importance in 2011 as a result of liberalisation of passenger rail transport. An increasing number of EU companies have set up trans-national joint ventures in order to penetrate non-domestic markets (see inter alia the decisions in the cases Veolia Transport/Trenitalia/JV and SNCF/HFPS/Wehinger GmBH/Rail Holding).

State aid

The number of state aid notifications has been increasing, partly due to the economic downturn. Although the sector is recovering gradually, this trend is expected to continue through 2012.

Many of the general state aid rules are applicable to the transport sector (for example, the general block exemption Regulation, the de minimis Regulation and others). There are however specific sectoral rules on state aid granted to the transport sector.

Maritime transport

The Commission consulted the public on the application of the 2004 EU Guidelines on state aid to maritime transport in the first half of 2012.


The air transport market has evolved dramatically in recent years. Low-cost carriers have developed new and comprehensive business models linked to regional airports and have gained substantial market share. In a recent landmark ruling in the Leipzig Halle airport case, the General Court confirmed that airport infrastructure construction is part of the economic activity of operating an airport and that State financing of it is State aid, except when it is for infrastructure used to perform public interest tasks such as security, air traffic control, police and customs. However, the General Court in December 2008 also annulled the Commission's decision in the Ryanair-Charleroi case. The Commission has a significant number of complaints and on-going investigations related to these issues.

The Commission is currently revising the Guidelines on financing of airports and start-up aid to airlines departing from regional airports ("State aid aviation guidelines"). Two consultations have taken place in  2011 and 2013.

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