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Wednesday, 12 June 2013 - Strasbourg
Annual report on competition policy

European Parliament resolution of 12 June 2013 on the Annual Report on EU Competition Policy (2012/2306(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), and in particular Articles 101, 102 and 107 thereof,

–  having regard to the Commission report on Competition Policy 2011 (COM(2012)0253) and the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD(2012)0141),

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2003 of 16 December 2002 on the implementation of the rules on competition laid down in Articles 81 and 82 of the Treaty(1),

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 139/2004 of 20 January 2004 on the control of concentrations between undertakings (the EC Merger Regulation)(2),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 13 October 2008 on the application of State aid rules to measures taken in relation to financial institutions in the context of the current global financial crisis(3) (the Banking Communication),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 5 December 2008 entitled ‘The recapitalisation of financial institutions in the current financial crisis: limitation of aid to the minimum necessary and safeguards against undue distortions of competition’(4) (the Recapitalisation Communication),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 25 February 2009 on the treatment of impaired assets in the Community banking sector(5) (the Impaired Assets Communication),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 23 July 2009 on the return to viability and the assessment of restructuring measures in the financial sector in the current crisis under the State aid rules(6) (the Restructuring Communication),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 17 December 2008 on a temporary Community framework for State aid measures to support access to finance in the current financial and economic crisis(7) (the original Temporary Framework),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 1 December 2010 on a temporary Union framework for State aid measures to support access to finance in the current financial and economic crisis(8) (the new Temporary Framework, which ended on 31 December 2010),

–  having regard to the final report of 2 October 2012 by the High-level Expert Group on reforming the structure of the EU banking sector(9),

–  having regard to the Commission communication on the application of the European Union State aid rules to compensation granted for the provision of services of general economic interest(10),

–  having regard to the Commission decision of 20 December 2011 on the application of Article 106(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to State aid in the form of public service compensation granted to certain undertakings entrusted with the operation of services of general economic interest(11),

–  having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘European Union framework for State aid in the form of public service compensation (2011)’(12),

–  having regard to Commission Regulation (EU) No 360/2012 of 25 April 2012 on the application of Articles 107 and 108 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to de minimis aid granted to undertakings providing services of general economic interest(13),

–  having regard to the study of June 2011 commissioned by Parliament entitled ‘State aid – Crisis rules for the financial sector and the real economy’(14),

–  having regard to the study of June 2012 commissioned by Parliament entitled ‘Collective redress in Antitrust’(15),

–  having regard to the Commission staff working document entitled ‘Public consultation: Towards a Coherent European Approach to Collective Redress’ (SEC(2011)0173),

–  having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘EU State Aid Modernisation (SAM)’ (COM(2012)0209),

–  having regard to the European Court of Auditors’ special report No 15/2011 entitled ‘Do the Commission procedures ensure effective management of state aid control?’,

–  having regard to the Commission guidelines on certain State aid measures in the context of the greenhouse gas emission allowance trading scheme post-2012 (hereinafter ‘the ETS Guidelines’)(16),

–  having regard to the Framework Agreement of 20 November 2010 on relations between the European Parliament and the European Commission(17) (hereinafter ‘the Framework Agreement’), and in particular paragraphs 12(18) and 16(19) thereof,

–  having regard to the Euro Area Summit Statement of 29 June 2012(20),

–  having regard to its resolutions of 22 February 2005 on ‘the Commission’s XXXIIIrd Report on Competition Policy – 2003’(21), of 4 April 2006 on the Commission Report on Competition Policy 2004(22), of 19 June 2007 on the Report on Competition Policy 2005(23), of 10 March 2009 on the Reports on competition policy 2006 and 2007(24), of 9 March 2010 on the Report on Competition Policy 2008(25), of 20 January 2011 on the Report on Competition Policy 2009(26) and of 2 February 2012 on the Annual Report on EU Competition Policy(27),

–  having regard to its resolution of 15 November 2011 on reform of the EU state aid rules on Services of General Economic Interest(28),

–  having regard to Rule 48 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and the opinions of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and the Committee on Transport and Tourism (A7-0143/2013),

A.  whereas competition policy based on the principles of open markets and a level playing field in all sectors is part of the EU genetic code, as well as being a cornerstone of the European social market economy, a tool at the service of European consumers in ensuring a socially and economically healthy internal market and in combating abusive practices by economic operators, and a key factor in ensuring the proper functioning of the internal market;

B.  whereas the free movement of goods, services, persons and capital has been essential for European growth;

C.  whereas the economic, financial and sovereign debt crisis began in autumn 2008 and worsened in 2011, resulting in a recession in the EU economy;

D.  whereas the Commission responded to the crisis by, among other measures, adopting special rules on state aid, and used competition policy as a crisis management tool; whereas this was, and still is, meant to be a temporary regime;

E.  whereas competition policy is essential in order to respond to the crisis and to support the Europe 2020 strategy and the single market, as well as progress towards a banking union, genuine economic and monetary union, and deeper integration and convergence;

F.  whereas protectionism would only deepen and prolong the crisis and strict enforcement of competition rules is essential to get the European economy back on track;

G.  whereas the Annual Report on Competition Policy should serve as an instrument for furthering the Union’s overall competitiveness by expanding competition and opening up to new actors, thereby widening and deepening the internal market, and should thus not relate exclusively to the practical implementation of competition policy by the Commission;

H.  whereas competition does not operate in an equally satisfactory manner in all Member States;

I.  whereas the sectors where the level of competition is inferior are often the very same ones in which there is underperformance in terms of economic output;

General remarks

1.  Takes note of the Commission Report on Competition Policy 2011, and welcomes the fact that the new thematic structure addresses the topics raised by Parliament and allows the clear identification of priorities, objectives and action taken;

2.  Stresses that competition policy is a cornerstone of the European social market economy; underlines the importance of strengthening antitrust, state aid and merger control measures to ensure economic efficiency, a well-functioning internal market and social progress; also emphasises that better access for SMEs and the third sector and the related participation in the internal market call for an active competition policy that will remove existing barriers;

3.  Calls for consistency between EU competition policy and all other EU policies, including sectoral regulation, in order to ensure that the internal market in products and services works well for citizens, the environment and businesses;

4.  Calls on the Commission to undertake, in cooperation with national competition authorities, a thorough examination of distortions in the functioning of competition and their economic impact; asks the Commission to identify possible imbalances between Member States in this field, as well as their causes;

5.  Stresses that the implementation of competition policy in the broader sense should not aim at strengthening established companies or providers of goods and services, but should, rather, have as its overarching objective the facilitation of the entry of new actors and the emergence of new ideas and techniques, thereby maximising the benefits to Union citizens;

6.  Points out that the extension of the extraordinary state aid crisis regime was a decision imposed by circumstances, and that it has contributed to preventing further financial and economic instability, avoiding protectionism and providing a mechanism for bank restructuring and crisis resolution, all of which are particularly useful in programme countries which are facing serious problems;

7.  Is concerned, however, at the fact that, while the state aid crisis regime was intended to be temporary in nature, it seems to have become not that temporary; notes that in its third consecutive annual report Parliament has emphasised the need to discontinue these temporary measures as soon as possible; regrets, furthermore, the fact that in some cases the approach has been failing, and insists that the lessons from previous interventions must be learned and practices adopted accordingly;

8.  Maintains that banks receiving state aid must focus their business model on the viable part of their activities, improve access to credit for families and businesses, cap remuneration, and minimise the impact on unaided competitors and EU taxpayers; notes in this regard that there is a need to consider the proposals of the High-Level Expert Group on reforming the structure of the EU banking sector;

9.  Stresses that the ongoing consolidation in the banking sector has actually increased the market share of several major financial institutions, and therefore urges the Commission to maintain a close watch on the sector in order to enhance competition in European banking markets,

10.  Recalls the Euro Area Summit Statement of 29 June 2012; agrees that it is imperative to break the vicious circle prevailing between banks and sovereigns and to develop their commitments as a matter of urgency;

11.  Asks the Commission strictly to enforce antitrust and merger control rules in order to achieve better-regulated, transparent, open and fair financial markets; appreciates its investigations in the over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives market, in particular in relation to credit default swap (CDS) trade data and services, payments services and the distribution of financial information to markets;

12.  Calls on the EU competition authorities to work in cooperation with other jurisdictions and monitor the behaviour and market impact of large financial players and oligopolies such as credit rating agencies (CRAs), along with episodes of price volatility related to financial markets, and to give top priority to investigating the alleged rate-rigging at LIBOR, EURIBOR and TIBOR;

13.  Believes that the above matters should be fully investigated, also to determine whether all the EU instruments have been used to prevent such occurrences; calls on the Commission, furthermore, to investigate the impact of such distortions in price development in sectors such as mortgage credit;

Supporting sustainable growth, jobs and competitiveness

14.  Recognises that competition policy is an essential tool for further developing and preserving the single market and is a key driver of productivity, efficiency and global competitiveness, playing a major role in supporting fair and open markets, sound public finances, and the Europe 2020 objectives for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth;

15.  Emphasises that deepening the single market, the return of economic growth, the attractiveness of the European market at a global level, achieving the Digital Agenda and encouraging research and innovation all require strong competition, a healthy plurality of economic entities, and a proactive industrial policy; notes that all antitrust, state aid and merger control instruments are essential to improving market regulation, encouraging transparency and rebuilding the economy;

16.  Expects the Commission to enforce competition policy effectively and to promote environment-friendly technologies and resources; believes that the new ETS guidelines should contribute to preventing carbon leakage, preserving price signals and minimising distortions; considers that the current low ETS price does little to promote climate-friendly technologies and is delaying the transition to a low-carbon economy;

17.  Defends that public actions adopted to provide support to victims of extended fraud and illegal financial practices with the sole goal of avoiding further damages and restoring their rights should not be considered as state aid;

Services of General Economic Interest (SGEIs)

18.  Notes that European citizens want a high-quality, area-wide and affordable supply of necessary and important public services, while increasing competition and promoting a more level playing-field between providers of those services, whether they are public or private; highlights that, to that end, safeguarding competition between different providers is crucial; stresses that the recent SGEI package could lead to a simpler, clearer and more flexible framework in this regard; emphasises the Commission’s responsibility, under the TFEU competition rules, to ensure that the compensation granted to SGEIs is compatible with EU rules on state aid, in order to avoid imposing low-quality but expensive services on the public; expresses its concern with regard to exempting too many services from the scrutiny of competition authorities;

19.  Calls on the EU competition authorities to monitor the pharmaceutical, health and insurance services markets (in particular the markets in generics and innovative medicines), identifying potential misuse of patent rights and discriminatory behaviour; notes that although the organisation of the healthcare sector and social protection fall primarily within the competence of the Member States, these services should be subject to control in order to preserve public finances and uphold competition law and the rights of EU citizens;

Improving consumer welfare: sectoral developments

20.  Is concerned that since mid-2007 food prices have significantly increased, with high volatility in producer prices, recalling that consumer food prices make a major contribution to overall inflation; stresses that the new framework for collective bargaining in the value chain should be accompanied by the pro-competitive operation of producer organisations and by a platform for monitoring food prices; urges the Commission, in cooperation with national competition authorities, to thoroughly scrutinise competition in the agro-industrial sector in terms of support, transparency and consumer price evolution at all levels of the value chain; recalls that the benefits to consumers which can be achieved in the food sector can be multiplied by carrying out similar competitive reforms in all other sectors of the economy;

21.  Stresses that services of both general economic interest (SGEIs) and general social interest (SGSIs) represent a significant share of total service provision in Member States, and that this implies that noteworthy gains can be accrued by making SGEIs and SGSIs more efficient; highlighting that, in this perspective, it is essential to ensure that the rules governing SGEIs and SGSIs prioritise protecting consumers;

22.  Highlights the major role played by speculation on food markets in causing price volatility; calls on the Commission to examine this issue on the Report on Competition Policy 2012 and to take initiatives to tackle speculation on food markets;

23.  Calls on the Commission to look more closely at the beneficial role of producers’ organisations and cooperatives in increasing small farmers’ welfare and bargaining power in relation to upstream industry;

24.  Looks forward to the European Competition Network (ECN) report on this subject; takes note of the fact that cereals and dairy products are the most investigated sectors in antitrust cases, and encourages the national competition authorities (NCAs) to step up their initiatives in this field; calls on the Commission to examine the European sugar sector, in which there was particularly high price inflation in 2011 and 2012;

25.  Urges the Commission once again to pursue the full implementation of the internal energy market package; encourages it, insofar as an open and competitive single market in energy has not yet been fully achieved, to actively monitor competition in energy markets, specifically wherever privatisation of public utilities starts out from a system of monopolistic or oligopolistic markets;

26.  Calls on the Commission to carefully examine developments on the EU air cargo and express services market; notes that the US operates a form of duopoly in the express market, and has in practice foreclosed the market to European competitors over the past ten years; concludes that further mergers in the sector would leave only one major European express and logistics company to compete, and that price competition on the internal market could be significantly impacted to the disadvantage of consumers;

27.  Stresses that no level playing-field exists for European companies in the US aviation market, and that there is an obvious imbalance on the EU-US aviation market even today, since European cargo airlines are denied access to the US domestic market and struggle to compete under unfavourable conditions; emphasises that this unequal market access distorts competition and finally hurts the European logistics industry and its customers;

Promoting legitimacy and effectiveness for competition policy

28.  Supports an active role for Parliament in shaping competition policy, including co-legislative powers; considers that the Commission must be fully accountable and must follow up Parliament’s resolutions; aims to reinforce the ongoing structured dialogue;

29.  Calls on the Commission to continue acting impartially and objectively and to be open to improvements in competition procedures; defends procedural rights, including the right of undertakings to have access to the Commission’s file prior to being heard;

30.  Encourages the Commission to further promote a fair competition culture by identifying general principles and supporting companies’ actions in this area, in particular by demonstrating greater interest and a more positive attitude towards compliance, as this will have a decisive preventive effect that is in the public interest;

31.  Requests the Commission to take into consideration the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution and to present the long overdue proposal under the ordinary legislative procedure to facilitate individual and collective private actions for damage suffered by companies and consumers as a result of breaches of EU antitrust law; believes that such a proposal should promote competition while not encouraging unmeritorious litigation, cover minor and diffuse damages, and ensure full compliance with EU transparency rules, and that any exceptions in the context of the leniency procedures will be properly and specifically justified, with full coherence ensured with public enforcement;

32.  Refers again to its earlier resolutions of 2 February 2012 on the Annual Report on EU Competition Policy and the idea of a possible Commission proposal on collective redress;

33.  Takes a positive view of cooperation within the European Competition Network (ECN) and with national courts with a view to ensuring the EU-wide effectiveness and coherence of competition policies; supports the effective sharing of responsibility between the ECN members, given that some markets tend to have more national dimensions than others owing to different legal, economic and cultural conditions; invites the Commission to promote convergence and cooperation agreements with other jurisdictions, including provisions for information exchange during investigations, under appropriate conditions;

34.  Is aware of the Commission’s high and rising workload in the area of competition enforcement, and reiterates, therefore, that the Commission needs more resources, especially via the allocation of existing resources, in order to be proactive and more effective in dealing with it;

35.  Invites the Commission to foster a culture of competition both in the EU and internationally;

Fining policy

36.  Recommends that the settlement procedure and, where appropriate, dissuasive and proportionate fines should be used, while avoiding the adverse economic and social consequences of driving stressed undertakings out of the market;

37.  Notes that fines should not prevent companies from holding their executives and staff responsible internally to account; nor, where appropriate, should they prevent Member States from dealing with issues of criminal responsibility; calls on the Commission to consider and report on these aspects;

38.  Is concerned that the use of fines as the sole instrument may be too limited, not least with a view to potential job losses as a result of inability to pay, and calls for the development of a wider range of more sophisticated instruments, covering such issues as individual responsibility, transparency and accountability of firms, shorter procedures, the right to defence and due process, mechanisms to ensure the effective operation of leniency applications (in particular to overcome the interference caused by discovery processes in the US), corporate compliance programmes, and the development of European standards; favours a ‘carrot-and-stick’ approach with penalties that serve as an effective deterrent while encouraging compliance;

39.  Notes again that the method for setting fines is contained in a non-legislative instrument - the 2006 Fining Guidelines - and once again urges the Commission to incorporate a detailed basis for calculating fines, based on the principle of legality, into Regulation (EC) No 1/2003, along with new fining principles;

40.  Reiterates its call for a general review of the Commission’s fining guidelines, taking account of six years of practical experience; believes this review should examine the role of compliance programmes, specify the conditions under which parent companies exercising decisive influence over a subsidiary should be made jointly and severally liable for antitrust infringements on the part of their subsidiaries, and consider the issues of leniency, recidivism, the turnover cap, and the interaction between public and private liabilities;

41.  Reiterates that the number of requests for fine reduction on account of inability to pay has increased, particularly from ‘mono-product’ undertakings and SMEs; affirms once again that a system of delayed and/or split payments could be considered as an alternative to fine reduction in order to avoid putting undertakings out of business;

42.  Welcomes the fact that the Commission has taken account of the specific needs of ‘mono-product’ undertakings in its decision (COMP/39452 of 28/03/2012);

Sector-specific considerations

43.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to continue to make progress towards completing the single market in transport, while ensuring open and fair competition in the transport, postal and tourism sectors, and while respecting other Union policy objectives such as properly functioning transport and mobility services, policy objectives in the areas of public services, social standards, safety and environmental protection, and the EU targets for reducing CO2 emissions and oil dependency; welcomes the announcement of a Single Market Act II, aimed at finally establishing the Single European Sky and continuing the opening-up of the rail market and the establishment of a single railway area;

44.  Believes that the Commission should further strengthen the links between competition policy and transport policy in order to improve the competitiveness of the European transport sector;

45.  Urges the Commission to be more proactive in promoting convergence of competition rules in international negotiations, so as to ensure a level playing field between the EU and third countries in the transport sector;

46.  Stresses the importance of uniformly developing a European transport area and eliminating the development gaps between Member States’ transport infrastructures and systems, in order genuinely to achieve a single European market and ensure fair competition in the field of transport;

47.  Emphasises the impact that tax differences have on competition between the various modes of transport and on intermodal transport, and calls on the Commission to provide an overview of taxes and differing VAT systems for the various transport modes;

48.  Stresses that if there is to be free and fair competition at European level, physical, technical and regulatory barriers between Member States must be removed, in particular through the development of interoperable and efficient trans-European networks;

49.  Welcomes, in principle, the Commission’s communication on passenger rights in all transport modes, but stresses that each mode of transport is inherently different and that any Commission proposal, while guaranteeing existing rights for passengers, must also ensure a proportionate and flexible approach which recognises the differences between modes;

50.  Urges the relevant authorities, in the light of the EU-US Air Transport Agreement, to intensify their cooperation in working to develop compatible regulatory approaches to airline alliance competition issues, and to actively seek ways to make the major alliances compete more vigorously within the transatlantic market;

51.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to speed up the implementation of the Single European Sky legislation, with a view to making the pricing of services more transparent, thereby facilitating the monitoring of compliance with competition rules and maximising competitiveness and safety in the European hub, and to continue working to foster competitiveness in European airports for the benefit of both the economy and passengers;

52.  Invites the Commission to provide an evidence-backed overview of cases where air carriers are at an advantage with regard to other service providers through special conditions or, as alleged, abuse their dominant position at certain airports, in particular through the imposition of a ‘one bag’ rule and other restrictions on cabin baggage allowances;

53.  Considers that commercial activities are a major source of income for airports, and that such aggressive practices may constitute an abuse of a carrier’s dominant position;

54.  Urges the Commission to strengthen monitoring of the trading, use and allocation of slots at European airports, in order to ensure fair competition as well as protection of regional connectivity across Europe;

55.  Calls on the Commission to monitor the measures affecting low-cost air operators, in order to ensure that they are not instruments of unfair competition;

56.  Urges the Commission, when dealing with the revision of the EU aviation and airport state aid guidelines, to ensure that there is no distortion of competition and to establish a level playing field for all market participants;

57.  Points out that limited progress has been made in liberalising Europe’s rail sector, and that this state of affairs puts rail transport at a disadvantage with regard to other means of travel, especially considering the issues related to the competitiveness of the sector across Europe;

58.  Urges the Commission to complete the implementation of the Single European Railway Area by ensuring that the right conditions are in place in order to open up the sector to free and fair competition, including measures to enable efficient and innovative rail companies to operate without restrictions, a clear separation between infrastructure ownership and rail operators, strong national regulatory bodies, and the harmonisation of provisions governing staff; calls on the Commission to take account of the different operational models of national rail companies when preparing to open up domestic passenger rail markets, and to make specific proposals in order to put an end to the indirect restrictions on competition resulting from inconsistent provisions on safety, interoperability and authorisation;

59.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to guarantee the opening-up of the rail transport sector to fair competition, as well as to ensure a better quality of services, without compromising public service provisions;

60.  Stresses that the further opening-up of the EU road haulage market can only be acceptable if a level playing-field between transport undertakings is guaranteed and the protection of social legislation and of the working conditions of mobile workers is safeguarded in all Member States;

61.  Stresses the need to avoid unfair competition within the liberalised road transport sector by guaranteeing the proper application of social, safety and environmental rules, with special attention to the opening of this market for cabotage and to dumping practices;

62.  Calls on the Commission to make specific proposals, in cooperation with the Member States, to eliminate the considerable differences which exist between Member States in terms of penalties for serious breaches of Community law in road transport, thus putting an end to those distortions of competition;

63.  Calls on the Member States to implement the third Postal Directive; encourages the Commission to examine closely and report on the social consequences of the liberalisation of the postal market and the universal service obligation in this field, including the financing of the universal service;

64.  Calls on the Commission, having regard to the Treaty of Lisbon, the new consolidated competencies and the economic potential of tourism for the EU, to facilitate proactive cooperation among tourism enterprises and to take the necessary measures to ensure the worldwide competitiveness of EU tourism excellence destinations; calls on the Commission to speed up the procedures of the legislative proposal on travel packages in order to ensure adequate competition and guarantee a clear free market in the European tourism sector;

65.  Takes the view that enforcement of the law on state aid should seek to achieve the objectives set out in the EU 2020 Strategy, in particular by enabling investment in the real economy and fostering a greater concentration of resources on research, innovation and sustainable development;

66.  Notes that the European market in electronic payments is still fragmented, both across and within national borders; encourages the necessary measures and enforcement to ensure a more open, transparent, innovative and competitive single market in payments, in such a way that it brings advantages and choice to all consumers with regard to card, internet and mobile payment options and mobile wallets, interoperability, costs and portability; asks the Commission, therefore, to assess the possible ways of bringing new entrants into the European market for card, internet and mobile payments while protecting future technological innovations in this sector; believes that the supervision of multilateral interchange fees needs to be strengthened, and welcomes the proposals set out in the Single Market Act II relating to a revision of the Payment Services Directive and a legislative initiative on multilateral bank charges;

67.  Approves the Commission’s intention to remain vigilant with regard to the transparency of financial markets, but believes that an extra effort is needed to ensure that timely, reliable and high-quality information is provided, especially for the derivatives markets;

68.  Believes that competition between companies must take place within a framework that ensures that consumer rights are effectively respected, and that a collective redress system and an alternative dispute resolution system are vital tools for this purpose;

69.  Points out that it is the Commission’s practice only to assess the misuse of a company’s market position; believes that in some markets this is not enough to prevent the risk of cartel agreements; requests the Commission to examine how to assess how to minimise the danger of cartels and maximise competition; calls on the Commission to put forward clear and transparent guidelines for competition policy which take account of these principles;

70.  Urges the Commission to pursue the full implementation of the internal energy market package, given that an open and competitive single market in the energy sector has not yet been fully achieved; encourages it to actively monitor competition in energy markets, specifically whenever privatisation of public utilities originates in monopolistic or oligopolistic markets;

71.  Notes that the lack of effective legal provisions for compensation for damage caused by breach of competition rules works to the disadvantage of consumers, and that fines for such breaches are paid solely to the benefit of the public budgets of the Member States;

72.  Calls on the Commission to ensure a fair balance of bargaining power between manufacturers and distributors, while emphasising the following:

   the importance of combating discriminatory practices in the field of online distribution as governed by the Vertical Restraints Block Exemption Regulation (Commission Regulation (EU) No 330/2010), so as to safeguard the ability of distributors to use innovative distribution methods such as online platforms and to reach a greater number and variety of customers;
   the importance of dealers on the markets for the sale of new motor vehicles following the expiry of Commission Regulation (EC) No 1400/2002 on 31 May 2013; asks the Commission to insist on the need to develop principles of good conduct between manufacturers and dealers with regard to vertical agreements in the motor vehicle sector, particularly with regard to the protection of investments after termination of a contract and the possibility of transferring a business to another member of the same brand network, in order to promote transparency in commercial and contractual relations between the parties;

73.  Welcomes, in this context, the efforts made by stakeholders in the food supply chain to agree on principles of good practice in B2B relations and on implementing measures in respect of free and fair competition; calls on the Commission to maintain its commitment to monitoring the implementation of these principles, as will Parliament through its yearly Retail Roundtable;

74.  Recognises that franchising is a good formula enabling independent retailers to survive in a highly competitive environment; calls on the Commission to monitor developments in relations between franchisers and franchisees, ensure a fair balance of bargaining power between them, and, if appropriate, come forward with legislative proposals;

75.  Considers that, alongside its relationship with Parliament and with the European Economic and Social Committee, the Commission should also ensure a better structuring of its cooperation with consumer organisations, and that this relationship should be considered an important aspect of the monitoring of competition rules; for this reason, the dialogue between the Commission’s DG Competition and those organisations should be encouraged and stepped up;

76.  Welcomes the state aid policy, which has helped stabilise the financial system when applied to banks; calls on the Commission to extend the assessment of the proper functioning of the single market to include state-owned long-term investment banks, including the European Investment Bank;

77.  Believes that media ownership and management should be transparent and not concentrated; calls on the Commission to assess how existing competition rules relate to the increasing concentration of commercial media in the Member States; also calls on the Commission to apply the competition rules and to intervene where there is excessive media concentration and where media pluralism is in danger; calls for rules to ensure that conflicts of interest are properly addressed and resolved;

78.  Calls on the Commission to better integrate competition policy with respect to the employment targets of the EU 2020 Strategy, allowing better support for SMEs, which are the main job creators;

79.  Calls on the Commission to make a specific reference to the impact of competition policy on employment and social affairs in future Annual Reports.

80.  Points out that competitiveness in the EU will be achieved through innovation and the contribution of highly skilled workers while not undermining the level of wages and/or pensions, by encouraging high social standards in all Member States, and by strengthening domestic demand; calls on the Member States, therefore, to make greater investment in education, vocational training and research and development;

81.  Calls on the Member States to pursue an active and integrative labour market policy in order to strengthen the competitiveness of the Union’s economies and to offer those seeking work secure and sustainable quality jobs;

82.  Welcomes the Commission’s approach to defining SGEIs by introducing measures for the integration/reintegration of workers on the labour market under the heading of services of particular interest to citizens;

83.  Calls on the Commission to give prior attention to the assessment of future developments regarding employees of companies that are undergoing restructuring and privatisation, recalling that during the privatisation process the employment component must remain a core concern for national governments as well as for the Commission;

84.  Calls on the Commission to continue monitoring the implementation of state aid rules, given that the spillover effects of the crisis are still present, and underlines the need to preserve services of general interest in the Member States;

85.  Calls on the Commission to continue reporting to Parliament, on an annual basis, on developments and effects in the application of competition policy.

o   o

86.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the national competition authorities (NCAs).

(1) OJ L 1, 4.1.2003, p. 1.
(2) OJ L 24, 29.1.2004, p. 1.
(3) OJ C 270, 25.10.2008, p. 8.
(4) OJ C 10, 15.1.2009, p. 2.
(5) OJ C 72, 26.3.2009, p. 1.
(6) OJ C 195, 19.8.2009, p. 9.
(7) OJ C 16, 22.1.2009, p. 1.
(8) OJ C 6, 11.1.2011, p. 5.
(10) OJ C 8, 11.1.2012, p. 4.
(11) OJ L 7, 11.1.2012, p. 3.
(12) OJ C 8, 11.1.2012, p. 15.
(13) OJ L 114, 26.4.2012, p. 8.
(16) OJ C 158, 5.6.2012, p. 4.
(17) OJ L 304, 20.11.2010, p. 47.
(18) ’Each Member of the Commission shall make sure that there is a regular and direct flow of information between the Member of the Commission and the chair of the relevant parliamentary committee.’
(19) ‘Within 3 months after the adoption of a parliamentary resolution, the Commission shall provide information to Parliament in writing on action taken in response to specific requests addressed to it in Parliament’s resolutions, including in cases where it has not been able to follow Parliament’s views.’
(21) OJ C 304 E, 1.12.2005, p. 114.
(22) OJ C 293 E, 2.12.2006, p. 143.
(23) OJ C 146 E, 12.6.2008, p. 105.
(24) OJ C 87 E, 1.4.2010, p. 43.
(25) OJ C 349 E, 22.12.2010, p. 16.
(26) OJ C 136 E, 11.5.2012, p. 60.
(27) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2012)0031.
(28) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2011)0494.

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