The own-initiative opinion will be an opportunity to bring all competition issues raised in other areas and opinions together and discuss them from an ECON perspective.
This will ensure a follow up to the CoR opinions on a series of topics influenced by the Commission's decisions and initiatives on competition: State aid and SGEIs, investments at regional and local level, corporate taxation, e-commerce and geo-blocking in the Digital Single Market (DSM), energy security and its importance for regions which have a strong industrial base, the Banking Union.
The opinion will be an opportunity for the CoR to liaise with the European Parliament throughout the opinion drafting process in order to bring up the main political positions of the CoR on competition-related matters in the context of the report drafted by the Parliament on the same subject, with an ultimate view of influencing future Commission's Report on Competition.
• Commissioner Vestager in her letter to the CoR President dated 22/01/2018 underscored that the Commission fully shares the CoR view that Member States are and should remain free to organise their SGEI, including social housing.
• In the same letter, Commissioner Vestager stressed that the CoR opinion on the Annual Competition Report provides, among others, useful input to their ongoing efforts to clarify and apply State aid rules to Services of General Economic Interest in a way which reflects the needs and practical experience of Member States, regional and local actors.
• Commissioner Hogan also congratulated in a personal letter the CoR rapporteur on his great work in highlighting the vulnerable position of farmers in the food chain. He stressed, in this respect, that this is an issue which greatly concerns the Commissioner and that the Commission is striving to tackle Unfair Trading Practices and improve the food chain –it is the intention of the Commission to bring forward proposals on this matter in 2018.
• Commissioner Vestager at her meeting with the CoR rapporteur Mr Murphy, on 7 September 2017, reiterated her willingness to consider and take on board some of the CoR suggestions, and particular her support for greater resourcing of National Competition Authorities.
• On 10 November 2017, the European Commission (Commissioner for competition, Margrethe Vestager) and the Irish government have agreed to set up a working group of officials from Brussels and Dublin to support Irish businesses facing challenges caused by the UK's withdrawal from the union. The joint working party will examine how the State can assist SMEs affected by Brexit without breaking EU state aid rules. Mr Murphy in his meeting with Commissioner Vestager on 7 September 2017, stressed, among others, the fact that his opinion advocates greater flexibility in state aid rules, particularly for those EU Member states that are likely to face the greatest economic disruption as a result of Brexit.
• Commissioner Vestager in her speech at the CoR Plenary on the CoR opinion on the Annual Competition Report 2016, on 1 December 2017, stressed, among others, that in May 2017, "we went a step further. We included ports and airports in the GBER. Your Committee gave feedback on the changes and we took this on board".
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
calls for the resourcing of Competition policy enforcement to have due consideration for national and regional Member State industrial policies for investment, particularly for those industrial policies which rely on national competences outside the scope of EU treaties;
believes that the economic disruption caused to other EU Member States as a result of Brexit should result in an expansion of General Block Exemption Regulations and a temporary relaxation or suspension of state aid rules for certain industries likely to be most affected insofar as it does not constitute selective aid which would be contrary to the objective of applying EU rules fairly to all companies;
notes the important role played by National Competition Authorities (NCAs) in key competition areas and recommends better resourcing of different Member States National Competition Authorities. Would also be supportive of a legislative proposal by the Commission on strengthening the enforcement and sanctioning tools available to the national competition authorities, the so-called ECN+, which would ensure that the full potential of the decentralised system of EU competition enforcement can be realised;
stresses the vulnerability of farmers and SMEs, which represent 79% of EU farms, due to their weaker bargaining position and to unfair trading practices in the food supply chain; highlights, in the same vein, that farmers are the main shock absorber in the supply chain and calls on the Commission to help farmers to counter-balance the effects of increasing concentration at the processing and retailing stages of the chain.