Sven Giegold
Member of the European Parliament – Greens/EFA Group

Speaker of the German Green Delegation

European Parliament calls to attune competition policy to the European Green Deal

On June 18, the European Parliament adopted its annual own-initiative report on EU competition policy with a large cross-party majority of Christian Democrats, Socialists, Liberals, Greens and some right-wing conservatives, while the majority of the Left abstained. With this report, the European Parliament takes a stand on current developments in competition policy and calls for adjustments to the EU competition rules. This is the first annual competition report of the European Parliament in this legislative period and the first with Margrethe Vestager as Vice-President of the European Commission. Vestager is responsible for “A Europe Fit for the Digital Age” and the implementation of EU competition rules.

This year’s competition report focuses on the role of competition policy in globalised markets and the adaptation of competition rules to the digital age. A separate chapter of the report focuses on competition policy in line with the European Green Deal.

The chapter on competition policy in line with the European Green Deal was our central Green demand. It is a great success that a separate section on this has been included in the report. Now Parliament supports the Commission’s plan to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 and the need to phase out fossil fuels. European suppliers of sustainable products and services should benefit from the European Green Deal and be protected from unfair competition from third countries, so that the European Green Deal can be successful. Parliament calls for a review of state aid rules in all relevant sectors such as transport, including air and maritime transport, to make them compatible with the objectives of the European Green Deal. In addition, the EU Commission should review current tax exemptions, such as for kerosene, as they distort competition with more environmentally friendly means of transport in favour of aviation. In the case of public aid to large companies, the EU Commission should prevent the aid from being used to strengthen their competitive position.

Parliament also wants to see good framework conditions for promoting energy efficiency, building renovation and electricity storage. The EU Commission is asked to allow greater flexibility for renewable community energy projects in the forthcoming revision of the guidelines for state aid for environmental protection and energy. Coal regions are to be designated as assisted areas so that measures for structural economic change can be supported. In return, companies operating in these regions should make a clear commitment to take steps towards greenhouse gas neutrality and to meet the EU climate targets. We will now work to ensure that the EU Commission really does press ahead with the required greening of competition policy.

Unfortunately, the report has not used all the potential to spell out a competition policy in line with the European Green Deal. Our Green demand that state support for fossil fuels and nuclear power should be linked to strict necessity tests in the relevant guidelines did not receive sufficient support. Nor were we able to secure a majority for the removal of the possibility of funding for airports and ports from the general block exemption for state aid. These two more far-reaching demands were supported by us Greens, parts of the Left and individual Social Democrats, Christian Democrats and Liberals, while a majority of Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, Liberals, right-wing conservatives and right-wing extremists voted against.

With regard to the international dimension of competition policy, the report calls for better monitoring of foreign direct investment and advocates greater reciprocity in public procurement. European rules on state aid should be applied equally to European and international companies. The European Parliament calls for greater attention to be paid to the role of foreign firms receiving state subsidies.

Politically problematic for us was the discussion about weakening the European competition rules in order to promote so-called European champions which should then be able to compete internationally. Unfortunately, the Liberal rapporteur, Mrs Yon-Courtin, together with the Social Democrat and Christian Democrat Members, had a comfortable majority in favour of such a position. We Greens opposed this idea: we want strict competition rules in the internal market for all companies, and no exceptions for selected favourites. Promoting EU champions would distort competition in the internal market and harm European consumers. Companies that compete successfully at home have the best preconditions to also compete internationally. The state should not make the promotion of European champions the rule, but should continue to make it an exception.

Now it is the turn of the EU Commission to react to the demands of the Parliament and to present adjustments to EU competition policy.

With green European greetings
Sven Giegold

Link to the final report: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-9-2020-0158_EN.html
Results of roll-call votes: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/sed/doc/news/flash/23541/P9_PV(2020)06-18(RCV)_en.docx


Our crucial amendments:

Amendment 9 – adopted:

46a. Welcomes the Commission

communication on the European Green

Deal and the objectives set out therein to

support a cost-effective transition to

climate neutrality by 2050 and to phase

out fossil fuels; supports the commitment

to revise EU State aid guidelines by 2021

in order to reflect these objectives;

 

Amendment 10 – rejected

47a. Calls on the Commission, as part

of the upcoming revision of the

Guidelines on State aid for environmental

protection and energy, to subject aid

granted to nuclear energy and fossil fuel

energies to strict necessity tests;

 

Amendment 11 – adopted

47b. Calls on the Commission, as part

of the upcoming revision of the

Guidelines on State aid for environmental

protection and energy, to provide for

greater flexibility for aid granted to

citizen-generated renewable energy, in

line with the EU’s climate commitments;

 

Amendment 12 – rejected

47c. Calls on the Commission to

exclude aid granted to airports and ports

from the scope of the General Block

Exemptions Regulation (GBER);

 

Amendment 13 – adopted

Motion for a resolutionAmendment
82.       Reiterates its call for coal regions to be identified as assisted areas in accordance with Article 107(3)(a) and (c) of the TFEU and for EU aid rules for these special regions to be adapted so as to enable measures to be taken to deal with structural change; insists that coal mining companies and coal power plant operators that have received and still receive public support for mining and burning coal must not be subject to a privileged State-aid treatment, including for traditional corporate responsibility activities such as ground water restoration, landscape refurbishment or other cleaning-up sites related activities; calls on the Commission to provide clear guidance and conditionality in line with EU climate commitments;82.       Reiterates its call for coal regions to be identified as assisted areas so that EU aid rules can be adapted to allow the adoption of measures dealing with the necessary structural changes, pending clear commitments from the companies operating in these regions to take concrete action towards carbon neutrality and EU climate objectives; recalls that those activities traditionally part of corporate social responsibility should not be subject to a privileged State-aid treatment;