The Commission published a speech by Alexander Italianer, Director-General for Competition, on the achievements and challenges of the European Competition Network (ECN), convergence and enforcement of EU competition law, delivered at the European Competition Day in Vilnius on 3 October 2013. The Director-General commenced by highlighting the national competition authorities’ (“NCA”) importance in the convergence of competition law across the EU. According to the Director-General, Regulation 1/2003 (“Regulation”) set up a system in which all actors apply the same EU competition rules in a coherent manner, but left it to the Member States to determine the institutional set-up of their enforcement systems and the freedom to determine their own procedures and sanctions. Though not regulated or harmonized by EU law, convergence has taken place in practice. The Director-General continued by discussing two types of convergence, namely in the application of substantive EU competition law and with regard to procedural convergence. Firstly, a single market requires a level playing field. Therefore, substantive EU competition law must be applied consistently throughout the EU. The Regulation introduced mechanisms to establish convergence in the application of the law, including NCAs informing the ECN of any on-going investigations as well as informing the Commission of decisions they intend to take. Furthermore, all competition authorities may formally and informally consult each other in the network and the Commission has the option of taking over a case from an NCA to ensure coherent application. As an example of the key role played by the ECN in bringing about convergence, the Director-General pointed out the work carried out in the payments sector and in the Agriculture and Food Retail Sector. Secondly, the Director-General discussed the procedural aspects of competition enforcement. Ten years from the entry into force of the Regulation, there is still a mixture of convergence and divergence. Matters such as the imposition of fines, the NCAs’ investigation powers and the powers to adopt decisions have been largely left to legislators of the Member States. The Director-General gave some examples of why the convergence of procedural tools is important for effective enforcement. A key achievement of this type of convergence is the adoption of the leniency program which, ten years ago, was not operated by all of the Member State’s competition authorities. The ECN prepared a blueprint for an effective leniency program and now all national jurisdictions operate such a program. Another good example of convergence is the voluntary adoption by Member States of similar powers as those given to the Commission in the Regulation, such as the power to adopt commitment decisions. Virtually all competition regimes in Europe have now introduced the possibility for such decisions. The Director-General concluded the speech by expressing that, even though the playing field is being leveled, there remain bumps with regard to procedures and sanctions and he posed the question on how to ensure that NCAs are equipped with a minimum standard of investigative and decision making tools, and that EU competition rules are applied effectively and in a uniform manner throughout Europe. Source: Commission Speeches and Articles by the Director-General 3/10/2013