Mr President, the competition report before us raises two main concerns. The first one is about the scope, the powers and the methods of DG Competition. Its remit amounts to one of the most powerful tools in the executive kit of the European Commission, indeed of the European Union.
DG Competition has the power to set and change market rules within the Union affecting a wide range of economic and financial issues. It can, and it does, issue orders to governments and corporations, big and small, regarding decisions they have taken or need to take. It is run by competent technocrats operating under the overall mantle of the Commission.
In arriving at decisions the DG carries out inquiries and investigations following an opaque process of negotiations that happens mostly behind closed doors. Political, economic, social, personal and national factors enter into play. In this, being ‘big’ is of greater account probably than being ‘small’. There is little transparency and hardly any accountability.
Moreover, there is an overlap between those whose job it is to set the rules and those implementing them. The two roles of setting rules and of implementing them should be institutionally separate and both should adopt more transparent methods. There is an urgent need to review DG Competition’s modus operandi as well as to reform its organisation.
The second concern that this report raises relates to how state aid rules are being applied to peripheral or isolated regions and islands. The latter should not be treated as if they belonged to the mainstream and better endowed centres of the Union. This approach cannot be justified by the argument that structural and cohesion funds already compensate for the disadvantages which these territories are burdened with; they do not. In such regions the sectors of communications, infrastructure, aid to SMEs, energy, the protection of traditional small-scale initiatives, among others, carry no systemic significance in the context of the continental single market.
To apply to these regions the same treatment as for the centre is helping to increase structural disparities between the centre and periphery of the Union. This should stop, not least when the states to which such peripheral or isolated territories belong already conform to the rules and procedures of the Stability and Growth Pact.
The operations of the Commission’s DG Competition require much deeper evaluation than can be provided by debates such as this in order to promote reforms and ensure transparency, fairness and accountability.