ECONOMY

Regulator sees disempowerment

A draft law prepared by the Regional, Development and Competitiveness Ministry is facing opposition from top officials at the Competition Commission and its employees, due to provisions which would limit the regulator’s scope and its ability to impose fines, while also harming its independence. The commission’s employees have decided to launch protest action of a symbolic nature, directed at Regional, Development and Competitiveness Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis, by launching work stoppages while the bill is being debated by Parliament’s trade committee and its plenary session. The ministry’s response to the commission’s report on the draft bill will be of particular interest. According to sources, the commission’s take on the draft bill highlights that many of its provisions clash with existing European Union laws on competition, while also breaching national regulations. A typical example is Article 25, which states that the commission will not be able to impose fines on violators but will call on the offender to change its practices and threaten the imposition of financial penalties. The commission will however be able to fine companies which have been found guilty of violating competition rules in the past. Not only does this provision go against a 2003 EU ruling but it is also in violation of national laws. The possibility of European Union authorities demanding changes to the draft bill is likely, as is the intervention of officials from the European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund who are overseeing Athens’s adherence to the memorandum signed in May to access a 110-billion-euro funding program to save the country from bankruptcy. The memorandum anticipates a role of greater importance for the Competition Commission and its capacity in issues such as the opening up of closed professions.