Corporate Human Rights Protection in Light of Effective Competition Law Enforcement
Sammanfattning: The aim of this thesis originates from the existing conflict of interests between the enforcement of European Union (EU) competition law and the companies’ human rights grievances. The former is concerned with the effective functioning of the European Commission’s powers to investigate companies under Articles 18 and 20 of Regulation 1/2003. The latter addresses the rights of defense of the companies under scrutiny, as provided for by Articles 6(1) and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR). Articles 18 and 20 of Regulation 1/2003 provide the Commission with very wide investigative powers, namely to request information from companies and to inspect their business premises. The aim is to maintain effective competition within the EU’s Internal Market, however sometimes to the detriment of the investigated companies. The crucial question therefore is whether these companies enjoy sufficient safeguards. Articles 6(1) and 8 ECHR constitute the relevant provisions that may be invoked as protection against the Commission’s discretionary enforcement of the EU competition rules. Although not yet directly applicable within the EU legal order, these provisions – as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) – have played a crucial role for the development of corporate human rights protection in the EU Courts’ case law. Nevertheless, this thesis illustrates that the general principles of EU law do not reach the same level of protection as that provided by the rights enshrined in the ECHR. This is particularly the case in respect of the companies’ protection against self-incrimination, where the ECtHR does provide full protection, in contrast to the EU Courts. Consequently, the investigated companies are not sufficiently protected from incriminating themselves during the Commission’s investigation procedures. The importance of ensuring the effectiveness of the EU competition law enforcement seems to prevail. When the Lisbon Treaty entered into force, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights became legally binding. It may be inferred that greater legitimacy was given to the fundamental rights within the European Union legal order, however more interestingly in respect of the future human rights protection in the EU is the accession to the ECHR. An interesting question is whether that accession will pave the way for the investigated companies’ human rights grievances before the ECtHR, instead of the EU Courts. That question, besides other related issues, is being scrutinized and analyzed in this thesis.
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