The national competition authorities in South Eastern Europe are evidently increasing and strengthening their cross-border cooperation and communication, allowing for a more effective regional approach in the protection of competition. Taking into account common challenges and economic interdependence, as well as similar goals in EU integration, the authorities appear to have recognized significant merit in a broader regional framework for competition enforcement.
Speaking in November at the "Competition and Competitiveness" conference, organized by Karanović & Nikolić, the President of the Serbian Competition Commission, Miloje Obradović, initially announced that one of the authority's main goals for the next two years is intensifying cooperation with its regional counterparts. With that in mind, he proposed the establishment of a Western Balkans Competition Forum, where regulators would meet to discuss the latest developments in the practice and legislation of competition protection. The Commission stated that this initiative was supported by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The framework would allow competition authorities to build upon existing cooperation in exchanging relevant information on market development, coordinating activities, competition advocacy etc.
In the last few months, increased communication between the regional competition enforcers has been evident and public, including a number of bilateral and multilateral meetings being held across the region. On the International Competition conference, held in Albania in December, Mr. Obradović underlined that: „Regional cooperation through the Forum would additionally increase capacity and influence coordination in practice between the regional competition authorities. The Forum would also expand on competition advocacy activities of all of the regional competition authorities".
There is a number of pan-European organizations dedicated to fostering cooperation between competition authorities already in place, including most notably the International Competition Network and the European Competition Network. However, it is evident that competition authorities in the region, whether they are already EU member states or candidates for accession, are increasingly becoming aware of the similar challenges facing regional economies and the effects that cross-border commerce has on competition in each of their jurisdictions, and are looking for a coordinated approach to tackling the main issues of the day. From a corporate perspective, a consistent and unified regional strategy for compliance becomes even more important for companies which are active in multiple jurisdictions, as the costs of non-compliance could grow exponentially wider.