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Competition: Cartel Settlement Procedure Adopted
The European Commission has introduced a settlement procedure for cartel cases. In return for a 10 per cent reduction in fines, members of a cartel would admit their liability, waive certain procedural rights and accept the fine to be imposed. The Commission hopes that cartel settlements will reduce its administrative burden and free up resources through quicker administrative procedures, shorter Statements of Objections and Decisions and, ultimately, fewer appeals before the European courts. The settlement procedure is centred around procedural efficiencies as opposed to negotiations on the evidence or on the penalties to be imposed. The 10 per cent reduction is somewhat lower than expected and it remains to be seen whether it will be sufficient to encourage parties to utilise the new procedure.
Mergers: Nokia's Acquisition of Digital Map Provider Navteq Cleared
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of Navteq by Nokia. Navteq is one of the two providers of navigable digital map databases offering complete coverage of Europe and North America. Such digital map databases are essential inputs for navigation applications on mobile phones, of which Nokia is the largest worldwide manufacturer. In its analysis, the Commission concluded that the merged company would be unlikely to pursue a strategy of closing off competitors. In addition, the merged company would lack incentives to close off supplies of map databases to its competitors, as a loss in sales of maps would not be compensated by increased sales of mobile phones. As a result, the Commission concluded that the transaction would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area or any substantial part of it.
Competition: ECJ Declares Greek Law Regulating Sports Events Illegal
Contact Philip Bentley
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has delivered a Judgment finding that a Greek law, which gives the Greek motor sports federation the right to authorise events in Greece, is incompatible with European competition law. This case arose when the federation, which also organises and markets motor racing events, failed to authorise a series of events organised by an independent organiser. The ECJ considered that the conflict of interest between the federation’s commercial interests and its public duties gave rise to the risk of abuse where, as in this case, there was no mechanism for independent review of the federation’s decision. The ECJ found the law facilitated the risk of an abuse of a dominant position by the Greek federation and was therefore in violation of European competition law.
Mergers: Conditional Clearance of News Corp. / Premiere Deal
In the first phase of merger proceedings, the European Commission has cleared the acquisition of Premiere, Germany’s pay-TV operator, by News Corp. The clearance is conditional on certain commitments offered by News Corp. Premiere is active in the provision of pay-TV services to viewers in Germany and Austria while News Corp. is one of the largest worldwide media groups. The Commission’s investigation showed that the transaction would possibly strengthen Premiere’s dominant position in the German pay-TV market, as it would be likely to impede third party access to its satellite platform. To address these concerns, News Corp submitted commitments, whereby technical services providers would continue to be in a position to grant third party access to Premiere’s satellite platform.
State Aid: Commission Approves Block Exemption for Fisheries Sector
On 2 July 2008 the European Commission approved a block exemption Regulation for fisheries. According to the block exemption, certain types of national aid to the fisheries sector will no longer have to be notified to and approved by the Commission before Member States can implement them. The block exemption covers all categories of aid covered by the European Fisheries Fund, with the exception of aid for investments in the fleet and aid for sustainable development of fisheries areas. However, it applies only to aid granted to small and medium sized enterprises and the amount of aid exempted may not exceed EUR 1 million. The projects financed may not have eligible costs in excess of EUR 2 million. The new Regulation also exempts, under certain conditions, aid in the form of tax exemptions on fuel as implemented pursuant to the Council Directive on energy taxation, insofar as these tax exemptions constitute State aid.
Health: Commission Proposes Directive on Patients' Rights
The European Commission has adopted a proposal for a Directive to facilitate the application of European patients' rights in relation to cross-border healthcare, as well as a communication on improving cooperation between Member States in this area. This follows calls from both the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers for the Commission to propose a specific initiative and several European Court of Justice rulings on cross-border healthcare. The proposal aims to provide legal certainty on the right of individual patients to seek healthcare in other Member States and be reimbursed in their home State, facilitating European cooperation on healthcare and health technology assessment.
Competition: Commission Adopts Guidelines on Maritime Transport
The European Commission has adopted Guidelines on the application of competition rules to maritime transport services. This brings to an end the immunity this sector has enjoyed for many years from the application of competition rules. Previously, Council Regulation 4056/86 allowed liner shipping operators an exemption from competition rules to organise themselves into so-called "conferences" with the aim of fixing prices and coordinating capacity for the transport of containerised cargo. In September 2006, the Council abolished that exemption from EU competition rules, with effect from 18 October 2008. As of that date, liner companies will have to assess whether their own business practices comply with the competition rules. These new Guidelines will help maritime operators understand the implications of this change and provide details on market definition, information exchange in liner shipping and on so-called “pool agreements” which are operational cooperation agreements between tramp operators (unscheduled maritime transport of non-containerised bulk cargo).
Competition: Commission Sends SO to Alleged Participants in Calcium Carbide Cartel
The European Commission has sent a Statement of Objections (SO) to a number of companies concerning their alleged participation in a cartel. These companies are active in the supply of calcium carbide and magnesium powder, products that are mainly bought by the steel and industrial gas industries. Surprise inspections were carried out by the Commission in January 2007 in Austria, Germany, Slovakia and Slovenia at the premises of several suppliers. An SO is the formal step in which the Commission informs the parties concerned in writing of the objections raised against them. Sending it does not prejudge the final outcome of the procedure.
NEXT WEEK’S EVENTS
Monday 7 July – Friday 11 July 2008
Eurogroup (7 July)
Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) (8 July 2008)
COURT OF JUSTICE
Citizenship of the Union
C-413/06 P Bertelsmann and Sony Corporation of America v Impala
Freedom of movement for persons
C-307/07 Commission v Portugal
C-484/06 Koninklijke Ahold
Approximation of laws
C-304/07 Directmedia Publishing
C-249/06 Commission v Sweden
Free movement of goods
C-110/05 Commission v Italy
Freedom of movement for persons
Police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
T-221/05 Huvis v Council
T-429/04 Trubowest Handel and Makarov v Council and Commission
T-466/07 Osram v Council
T-52/03 Knauf Gips v Commission
T-53/03 BPB v Commission
T-50/03 Saint-Gobain Gyproc Belgium v Commission
T-54/03 Lafarge v Commission
T-99/04 AC-Treuhand v Commission
T-70/06 Audi v OHMI (Vorsprung durch Technik)
T-304/06 Reber v OHMI - Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli (Mozart)
T-323/05 Coffee Store v OHMI (THE COFFEE STORE)
T-302/06 Hartmann v OHMI (E)
T-176/06 Sviluppo Italia Basilicata v Commission
T-301/01 Alitalia v Commission