The European Commission recently reaffirmed that industrial policy objectives have no role to play when it comes to applying the EU merger control rules. Despite unusually intense industrial and political pressure to get the Siemens/Alstom railway merger done, Competition Commissioner Vestager has forcefully reiterated that the substantive test under the EU Merger Regulation remains exclusively competition based.
In January 2011, the European Commission decided that the proposed merger between Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air should be prohibited because it would have resulted in a quasi-monopoly on the domestic Greek air transport market. This decision shows that traditional airline merger remedies, such as slot releases, are sometimes insufficient to allay concerns of monopolization. It also illustrates that the Commission will take a tough stance on competition policy, even when facing strong political pressure to clear the merger for the sake of the economy.
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