Chapter 12: Industrial policy and EU merger control - finding the right tools
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EU review of mergers has been an overwhelming success: the European Commission has established itself as a leading competition regulator on the strength of the transparency of its rules-based merger control regime. Nevertheless, the independence of decision-making from political influence and industrial policy considerations has been a constant theme. These tensions were recently laid bare by the Commission’s decision to block the combination of the train activities of Siemens and Alstom. This contribution examines that controversy, as well as the roles of Chinese outbound investment and COVID-19 in shaping the recently launched EU Industrial Strategy. We conclude that, notwithstanding the challenges faced by European businesses as a result of an unlevel global playing field, the EU should not abandon its strict application of the EU Merger Regulation. European interests have been well served by an independent competition policy based on antitrust orthodoxy. Finally, the chapter discusses how other instruments put forward by the Commission are capable of preserving Europe’s industrial base and protecting firms from unfair competition without baking industrial policy considerations into the EU Merger Regulation.

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