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Parliamentary questions
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6 April 2020
Answer given by Executive Vice-President Vestager
on behalf of the European Commission
Question reference: E-001045/2020

The European Commission is aware of the existence of this emergency ordinance recently adopted by the Romanian Government (Government Emergency Ordinance no.6 of 3 February 2020).

The rules on how the decisions by a national competition authority are adopted (e.g. by a board or by the Director General only) as well as the rules on how long the decision-makers can exercise their functions (e.g. only one mandate, several mandates or no restriction in terms of time) are not harmonised at EU level. The national rules on these issues therefore differ between the Member States and there are no binding rules or recommendations at EU level.

Directive (EU) 2019/1 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2018 to empower the competition authorities of the Member States to be more effective enforcers and to ensure the proper functioning of the internal market(1) (‘the ECN+ Directive’) provides all the necessary guarantees for ensuring the independence of all staff members in national competition authorities when they perform their duties. In particular, it ensures that they cannot be subject to instructions from any public or private body.

The ECN+ Directive also provides that conditions for selection, recruitment and appointment of the decision-making bodies, including in this case the members of the governing board (the plenum) of the competition authority, should be laid down in advance in national law.

As long as the decision-makers enjoy the guarantees of independence as set out in the ECN+ Directive, the length of a mandate or the number of possible mandates would not — in themselves — put into question the independence of decision-makers. Indeed, the duration of the mandate or the number of mandates of decision-makers of the national competition authorities are not governed by the ECN+ Directive and the national rules on the length of mandates go from shorter periods to lifelong appointments also in other Member States.

The deadline for transposition of the ECN+ Directive into national law is 4 February 2021(2).

(1) OJ L 11, 14.1.2019, p. 3
(2)See also Case C-129/96, Inter-Environnement Wallonie.
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