EC merger policy under fire

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The Independent Online
BRUSSELS - The European Community's merger policy is too open to influence by interested companies, and political goals are sometimes given precedence over the needs of competition in the single market, according to an independent report, writes Andrew Marshall.

'In a number of important decisions, the Commission has not given adequate weight to the interests it is supposed to serve,' say the authors of Merger in Daylight, published by the Centre for Economic Policy Research.

Companies are in general appreciative of the flexibility of the Commission and its Merger Task Force over takeovers, it says. But, it adds: 'While some degree of flexibility is both necessary and desirable, it can easily lead to a distortion of the policy of merger control in favour of special interest groups.'

Part of the problem is that the Commission's investigation and subsequent decision on mergers are both undertaken by the same body, it says. This means that sometimes reports are simply justifications of decisions that have, in effect, already been taken.

Merger in Daylight: the economics and politics of European Merger Control, by Damien Neven, Robin Nuttall and Paul Seabright, available from CEPR at 25-28 Old Burlington Street, London W1X 1LB.