Monday, 06 February 2012 15:56
Addressing the first European Competition Forum held in Brussels, on 2 February 2012, Joaquín Almunia, Vice President of the European Commission responsible for Competition Policy, whilst emphasising that together with the single currency, the internal market remains our most important asset, “one that gives us an edge over our global competitors”, he explained that “Everyone knows that competition enforcement is a delicate and complex task which demands a great deal of care, reflection and expertise ... Competition is one of the most powerful engines of growth in the EU.”
As expected, most of his speech addressed State Aid policy as well as the role of Competition in today’s European society which encourages innovation, fosters growth and consequently, enhances the standard of living for European citizens. “I don’t need to tell you how, in these dire times, the benefits of competition are extremely valuable ... releasing the creative and productive forces of our economy will bring lasting results.” adding that “however, the latest stage of the crisis is revealing worrying cracks in the structure that holds our common currency together; so, a two-pronged approach is needed: urgent measures to reinforce the EMU and solve the sovereign-debt crisis, and a plan of reforms agreed and coordinated at EU level to stimulate economic dynamism and re-launch growth.” Competition policy has therefore, a vital role to play within the current financial crisis.
On State Aid control, the EU Commissioner explained that he was keen to commence an open dialogue with the Member States and the European Parliament “to review across the board the rules that we use in State Aid Controls” admitting that many aspects thereof were amenable to change. Hence, the need to modernise EU State Aid policy, in particular its control, given that “Public funds that are used to favour certain companies in particular, harm their competitors across the EU... and we all know that aid granted to protect inefficient companies eventually erects barriers within the internal market and hinders growth.” He vowed to provide simpler rules for the applicability of State Aid control which would mean swifter decisions by the Commission.
Commissioner Joaquin Almunia further commented that he strongly favoured the idea that “State Aid control can have a positive impact on budgetary discipline and on the quality of public finance as it can help redirect spending on targeted growth-enhancing policies.” He advocated his belief that the eventual State Aid reform should support the present on-going efforts being made by Member States to reallocate their spending as budgeted or otherwise, by redirecting it towards growth-enhancing policies and activities, and consequently, making better use of taxpayers’ money, always keeping in mind as to whether and to what extent, State Aid benefits could lead to possible distortions of competition in the internal market.
“The plan to reform our State Aid policy that I have unveiled today falls in this tradition. The new regime will help Member States spend taxpayers’ money more wisely; strengthen Europe’s economy; and meet the growing needs of our people.”, he remarked, targeting this coming summer to set out in detail the challenges to be addressed and before the last quarter of this current year to have the main elements of the package for specific measures in place.
For Full Speech: http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=SPEECH/12/59