Wilks, Stephen. (2007) The European Competition Network: what has changed? In: UNSPECIFIED, Montreal, Canada. (Unpublished)
[From the introduction]. The European Competition Network (ECN) is the starting point for this paper but is used as a gateway for exploring larger questions about the development and impact of EU competition policy. The ECN came into operation in 2004 and serves as an enforcement network in respect of some, but not all, of the competition rules. It is a central element in the ‘Modernisation’ of EU competition policy brought about through Regulation 1/2003. Modernisation constitutes the most important transition in the fifty years of EU competition evolution and it affects the operation of the agencies, the priorities of the Commission and the effectiveness of enforcement. Further, it is argued here, the ECN clears the way for the development of a supranational redefinition of the philosophy or principles of competition policy itself. In the past I have argued that DG Comp has enjoyed such a unique degree of independence that it can be analysed as a supranational agency (Wilks with McGowan, 1995; 1996; Wilks with Bartle, 2002). In like fashion it is now possible to argue that the ECN can be analysed as a uniquely independent supranational network. There is no international regime or equivalent of the WTO for competition but we do now have a regional equivalent in the form of the ECN. Here we have something that comes very close to Slaughter’s (2004, p.42) vision of ‘executive transgovernmental networks’, especially if we can visualise the ECN as part of a trans-Atlantic, and possibly a global, network of competition regulators. This paper therefore analyses the ECN on three dimensions. First, on the administrative dimension, as a novel network configuration for enforcing competition policy in the EU. Second, on the policy dimension, as the catalyst of an ongoing transition in the focus of European competition policy. Third, very briefly and more speculatively, on the constitutional dimension, as a means of embedding a particular economic doctrine in the ‘economic constitution’ of the EU.
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