In an interview with MLex on 5 July 2021, Olivier Guersent, top official at the European Commission, said that the Commission will not soften its approach in the medium or long term because of Covid-19.
During the pandemic, there was a special regime of subsidies and bailouts that allowed governments to put vulnerable industries on life support, and merger control slowed down. Now, the European Commission is thinking about how to move beyond this special regime. The normal application of competition law will be crucial to ensuring that Europe’s economies recover fully from the crisis, says Guersent.
About the “failing firm” provision, for example, Guersent says that this is a valid defence, adding however that the Commission will continue to insist on a high standard of proof.
The merger rules will not change as there is no consensus for changing the rulebook in either direction. Different standards will not be applied. But new rules might be needed for entrenched markets.
As regards cartel enforcement, the Commission is working on new techniques to better identify, detect and prosecute cartels. It is also working on the efficiency of the Leniency Notice. However, raids will continue to be carried out.