The EU’s competition watchdog needs to better explain what “fairness” in competition means, antitrust veteran Gerwin Van Gerven said today. Malina McLennan at GCR Live 9th Annual Brussels Conference: The bigger picture
Speaking on a panel at GCR Live in Brussels today, Linklaters partner Van Gerven said he doubted that talk of fairness by EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager and others is meant with a populist sentiment – but the term remains vague.
“Antitrust is by definition almost a populist policy because it is really geared to consumer welfare,” Van Gerven said.
“I more or less understand what ‘fairness’ means, but quite frankly, it would not be bad if people explained what it meant more, because it is a term that has gained some prominence with Commissioner Vestager,” he said.
Moderator John Davies, a partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, asked panellist Paul Csiszár – the director of basic industries, manufacturing and agriculture at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition – whether he saw similarities between the Trump Administration’s populist thinking and the European Commission’s recent emphasis on fairness in antitrust enforcement.
Csiszár said fairness and populism are different concepts.
“Populism starts with fairness, but the types of solutions they suggest can go in all kinds of wrong directions,” said Csiszár; however, the concept of fairness is “embedded in all legal systems.”
Panellist Jessica Delbaum, a partner at Shearman & Sterling in New York, said she doubts the Trump administration will make any significant changes to antitrust enforcement.
Suyong Kim, a partner at Hogan Lovells in London, also spoke on the panel.
GCR Live’s 9th Annual Brussels conference: The Bigger Picture concludes tomorrow.