Flouting competition rules

Brussels – Greece is on the point of yet again being dragged before the European Court for laying obstacles to free competition. The three cases involved – for each of which the European Commission has issued a considered opinion, the final warning before referring the case to the court – involved certain regulatory standards set by Greek law for certain commercial activities. The first regulation that has fallen foul of EU standards is one requiring all industries, large and small, in areas where the natural gas distribution network is developed, to use natural gas exclusively. According to the Commission, the State ought to also allow the use of commercial propane and butane (generically known as LPG) as an alternative environmentally acceptable solution. The regulation constitutes a barrier to the free import and sale of LPG, the Commission says. The second case concerns a law obliging independent domestic gas stations to get their fuel exclusively from domestic suppliers. In order to turn to foreign suppliers, gas stations must belong to an oil company or be part of a cooperative made up of at least five gas stations. This stipulation, according to the Commission, is equivalent to «setting limits on the quantity of petroleum products that can be imported from other member states.» The third case involves pre-baked and frozen bakery goods. These, according to Greek law, can only be baked and sold in stores with all the equipment required of bakeries. Again, the Commission says, this is equivalent to limits on imports of these goods.