The French moralist and essayist Joseph Joubert said hundreds years ago that: “Everything the father of a family says must inspire one or the other.” At the middle part of the 20th Century, some of the founding fathers of the European Union brought to our attention clever ideas such as: “Everybody is ambitious. The question is whether he is ambitious to be or ambitious to do…” “Education and culture is the key to European integration” (Jean Monnet); “Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity” (Robert Schuman); “We all live under the same sky, but we don’t all have the same horizon…” “When the world seems large and complex, we need to remember that great world ideals all begin in some home neighborhood” (Konrad Adenauer). On the other hand, a reputed German art historian, Jean Paul Richter, born in the middle of the 19th century, said that: “Our birthdays are feathers in the broad wing of time.”
These beautiful wise words inspired us in approaching the landmark event of the celebration of 20 years of Competition Law enforcement in Romania. As we all know, there is a clear consensus regarding the real need of promoting a competition culture in the EU and world-wide, of ensuring that competition policy delivers both global competitiveness for companies and a level-playing field in the internal market where SMEs can compete. As EU Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager argued: “Legislation is not an end in itself: what is important is to steer innovation and make markets deliver clear benefits to consumers, businesses and society as a whole…” “I believe that the defence of the common interest is a hallmark of competition policy…” By protecting open and fair competiton our work contributes to shaping our countries’ economies, and societies… As enforcers, we work to keep markets open and to foster competition… what makes competition enforcement effective is its independence… And because of that independence, we can take decisions that defend the interests of consumers, even when large and powerful companies are involved… competition enforcement can only be truly effective if the public is convinced that enforcers are taking decisions purely in the interests of competition… the best way for us to contribute is simply to do our job. Because competition drives us all to do better. It gives us that extra push that helps us to deal with our challenges. And I think that is already a contribution we can be proud of.”
First of all, our thoughts go out to the Romanian Competition Council’s people, that were professional developed owing to both their professional commitment and technical assistance ensured by Italian, German and last but not the least American Advisors. Romanian Competition Council’s representatives have always proved the necessary competences to protect competition on the Romanian market and to contribute farther to the progress of the European and International Competition Family.
Our thoughts also go out to the families of all those “Romanian Competition Family” members who are no longer with us, like: IOAN BUDA, NICU TĂNASE, PETRE ŢÂRU, GHEORGHE OPRESCU.
The last Romanian Competition Council’s Annual Report entitled “The Romanian Competitive Environment – Developments in Essential Sectors” (launched on October 27, 2016) proved again the accumulated experience, the refining of working practices and delivery of decisions in a more timely manner without reducing quality, by tackling competition problems and encouraging compliance, and also continuing to stimulate the strategic dialogue about what did help to deliver better results, building on delivering for consumers. The President of the Romanian Competition Council (RCC), Bogdan M. Chiriţoiu, reconfirmed on this occasion the continuously focusing on monitoring the key economic sectors and on protecting the competitive environment so as to increase the productivity and the efficiency of the Romanian economy, and highlighted the strengthening RCC’s expertise in ensuring the systematic implementation of reforms of the competition regime.
Ten years ago, on the occasion of the RCC’s 10th Anniversary we also expressed some reflections as a former Romanian Competition Council’s member (September 1996 – March 2004). This time, considering also serving in the position of member of the Advisory Board of the Romanian Competition Council, we also want to salute, among other valuable well-known RCC’s achievements, the constant reflection in action for identifying the necessary right answers at the interface between consumer organizations as representatives of consumers, and those of the competition authority, between competition and consumer policies, what was an important aspect underlined, for instance, by the EU Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager in May 2016.
It is well-known that consumer policy (which offers direct means to address market failures) is consumer-oriented (an active and well-informed consumer processing the market-related information while searching for goods and services, his representatives being involved in the enforcement of the competition policy), and the most important tools for consumer protection are an effectively operating market with free competition and information disclosure (the last one improving the transparency of the market). Effective competition is facilitated by effective consumer choices. As competition law (which serves consumers by ensuring that markets remain competitive by encouraging new market entrants and creating incentives for innovation) is primarily concerned with consumer welfare (which is promoted by well-functioning, competitive markets, the ultimate aim of the competition law being to achieve economic efficiency), consumer protection (which serves competition by encouraging consumers to participate in the marketplace and to activate the competition) is dependent on the competition law. There is a growing concern on consumer interests and expectations in competition law, within the context of the tensions and complements between consumer protection and competition law much easier to recognize thanks to the increased application of the economic analysis (Katalin Judit Cseres – Competition Law and Consumer Protection, Kluwer Law International, The Hague, 2005, pp. V-X, 21-37, 49-51, 62-63, 68-70, 78-79, 87-89, 324-326, 328-329, 332-333, 335-336, 338-340, 342 -343).
As we mentioned four years ago, as a special kind of „path dependence” process, there is no doubt that „competition policy history” matters, and that the Romanian Competition Authority can and must provide the right framework for continuing on the right path, and on building on delivering for consumers. RCC’s valuable activity confirmed the importance of path-dependent features of the competition policy ranging from superior standards and procedures applied by the European competition authorities to the patterns of facilitating effective international cooperation to the benefit of good work of the mentioned authorities in applying rules in the same way across the EU in order to make sure businesses and companies compete fairly with each other, and create a wider choice for consumers and help reduce prices and improve quality.
Vivat, crescat, floreat!