A Competitive Environment? : Articles 101 and 102 TFEU and the European Green Deal
Sammanfattning: Europe is facing a climate and environmental crisis. To respond to this, the European Commission has launched several programmes, which aim to increase sustainability and environmental protection. This aim has been condensed into the policy document that is the European Green Deal. The European Green Deal sets out the aim of making the Union’s economy climate neutral, while improving environmental protection and protecting biodiversity. To this end, several different sectors of the economy need to be overhauled. In EU Law, a key policy area is to protect free competition. Article 101 TFEU sets out that agreements between undertakings which have as their object or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition are prohibited. Similarly, Article 102 TFEU prohibits abuse by an undertaking of a dominant position. This thesis explores what happens when competition law thus intersects with the environmental policy of the Union. The thesis identifies two main situations of interaction. Undertakings can invoke environmental protection to justify a restriction of competition. The Union may also rely on its antitrust provisions to enforce sustainability by holding unsustainable practices as restrictive agreements or abuses of dominant behaviour, respectively, and thus prohibited by the antitrust provisions. Generally, the thesis concludes that there is not enough information on how the Commission and the CJEU will approach arguments relating to sustainability in its antitrust assessment. The Commission’s consumer welfare standard appears to limit environmental integration to points where a certain factor results affects the environment or sustainability on the one hand, and consumer welfare on the other. The lack of information, moreover, is in itself an issue as undertakings may abstain from environmental action if they believe they will come under scrutiny due to violations of the antitrust provisions. Therefore, a key conclusion in the thesis is that the Commission and the CJEU should set out clear guidelines for environmental action by undertakings, in relation to the antitrust provisions. Similarly, the Commission appears to be cautious to use antitrust as a tool against unsustainable practices. The Commission has, however, recently decided to open an investigation into agreements which limit sustainability, which shows that the picture may be changing.
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