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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Phases of Competition Policy in Europe

  • Author(s): Resch, Andreas
  • et al.

In the process of globalization, international convergence of competition legislation has steadily gained importance. Yet, specific aspects of European history gave capital markets, corporate governance and competition policies a special flavor. Historically grown peculiarities have to be taken into account when it comes to evaluate actual policy decisions.

In this paper the focus is on four phases of European competition policy. Prior to World War I banks gained a strong position thanks to block holdings, proxy votes, and a high degree of capital intermediation. Closed market structures prevail to our days. The interwar period was characterized by attempts to overcome the economic disintegration by international cartels. This experience influenced post World War II institutions like the European Community for Coal and Steel. After 1945, attempts by the U.S. to provide for a strict antitrust regime in Western Europe had very limited success. Yet, from the late 1950s on, the EEC saw strict competition policy as a vehicle for market integration. While during the 1970s and 1980s in the U.S. antitrust was counterbalanced by efficiency considerations, in Europe a policy aiming for competitive structures gained weight.

Those who plead for convergence between European and U.S. competition policies should, however, be aware of the fact that due to closed markets and regional protectionism in Europe antitrust laws need to play a more important role to provide for an efficient economic system.

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