The management of competition policy in the single market is focusing on strategic areas of development, like the digital market, to ensure that fair and transparent rules of competition sustain level playing fields and suppress dominant behaviour .
That is commendable.
However too often, in Europe as elsewhere, the lucrative mass consumer markets, as well as the specialised market segments which contribute most to corporate profits, have become the domain of big multinational firms.
Meanwhile in recent years, state aid rules meant to ensure that governments do not curtail competition have rightly been further modernised and adapted in line with Europe’s increasing complexities and interdependencies.
A problem here is that state aid itself is not, and cannot be in fact, subject to a level playing field.
For instance, a state with a booming defence industry has many ways by which to camouflage research and development state aids as part of this industry and of the national security interest.
Meanwhile, small states and those which are not in the defence business lack this possibility.
Moreover, economic divergences between European partners has been growing to the extent that it is now a crucial problem for Europe.
Those parts of Europe which are trailing, lack enough instruments that would help them stimulate new activity in their territories.
They fail to attract outside investment to their side.
And they cannot back directly, through state intervention, their local entrepreneurial “champions”, such as they are, in new efforts to create projects and jobs.
In many cases, these interventions would have minimal to no impact on the single European market.
As the Greek crisis has shown, imbalances resulting from a divergence of economic performance between widely positioned partners in the Union can create upheaval.
State aid applied across the board according to equivalent rules may be contributing further to economic divergences. What works well to regulate big conglomerates, can become meaningless or counterproductive in peripheral areas connected to distant metropoli through a single currency.
In this context, would it be possible to audit in peripheral areas of the single market, the real impact of current state aid rules as modernised, including post state airlines for instance?
Say by carrying out an audit of how state aid rules are functioning on the ground in peripheral regions, given the need to promote economic convergence between regions of the Union, and the need to counter diseconomies of scale and other disadvantages in regions where economic and social development has lagged ?