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European Competition Network celebrates its 20th anniversary

The Austrian Federal Competition Authority (AFCA), national competition authorities from across the European Union and the European Commission are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the European Competition Network (ECN), looking back at two decades of close collaboration.

The European Competition Network

The European Competition Network (ECN) comprises the national competition authorities (NCAs) in the EU Member States and the European Commission. Its aim is to ensure the consistent and decentralised application of European competition rules through close cooperation, and within the scope of Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2003, which entered into force on 1 May 2004.

Even when the establishment of the network was first announced, it was made clear that the ECN’s role would be to act as a forum for discussion and cooperation for the application and enforcement of European competition policies at the individual level of enforcement and to provide the basis for the creation and safeguarding of a common culture of competition in Europe.

To achieve these aims, the ECN has several tools at its disposal, all of which centre around consultation mechanisms and the extensive exchange of information.

In the fight against companies that engage in cross-border business practices that restrict competition and are harmful to consumers, the ECN stands for an efficient division of work; every case is handled by the competition authority that is deemed to be the best placed to investigate and take effective action to terminate the breach in question.

Through the ECN, the competition authorities inform each other of proposed decisions and take on board comments from the other competition authorities. In this way, the ECN allows the competition authorities to pool their experience and identify best practices.

If needed, the competition authorities can help each other by providing official assistance, particularly by a requested authority leading investigations. The ECN+ Directive further strengthened these options, also adding new tools to help enforce decisions.

Looking back at the past 20 years, the figures speak for themselves: between May 2004 and December 2023, NCAs adopted more than 1,700 decisions based on Article 101 and/or Article 102 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). They launched, on average, 140 investigations and adopted 75 decisions each year.

Cooperation between ECN and AFCA

The close cooperation within the European Competition Network to ensure the effective and consistent application of Articles 101 and 102 TFEU is one of the core tasks of the independent national competition authorities.

Within the ECN, groups of experts discuss competition issues in specific sectors and promote a common approach.

The AFCA is involved in a number of working groups, which deal with general legal, economic and technical issues surrounding competition enforcement as well as sector-specific topics.

International cooperation is a key part of enforcing fair competition within the European Union. I am very happy to be able to look back on 20 years of successful collaboration within the ECN. Together, we have taken huge strides forward in competition enforcement,” commented Director General Natalie Harsdorf.

Further information about the ECN can be found at: European Competition Network - European Commission (europa.eu)