French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has proposed changes to competition rules | Eric Piermont/AFP via Getty Images

French finance minister proposes retroactive EU merger remedies

Proposal would reverse existing control procedure.

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The European Commission should unconditionally approve mergers then impose remedies several months after the deal, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire proposed Thursday at POLITICO and L’AGEFI Finance Summit in Paris.

“Instead of imposing commitments to companies immediately when they merge, with the risk of weakening the new entity, we could clear the merger and then, after six months or one year, consider behavioral remedies … depending on the influence of this new undertaking on the market,” Le Maire said.

Under existing EU merger rules, remedies to fix anti-competitive consequences of mergers are imposed before the Commission’s final decision to clear or block the deal.

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The proposal, which would reverse existing merger control procedure, comes unexpectedly as it was not mentioned in previous French proposals to change EU competition rules, including the most recent one.

This week, France, Germany, Italy and Poland urged European Commission Vice President Margrethe Vestager to stop dragging her feet on competition law reforms that they insist are needed to forge European champions to rival China and the U.S.

But in the letter sent by the four countries to Vestager there there is no sign of Le Maire’s proposal to approve deals and consider remedies at a later stage.

Authors:
Giorgio Leali 

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