Addressing the EESC Members at their plenary session today, Margrethe Vestager, EU Commissioner for Competition, argued a strong consumer, business and social justice case for EU competition policy. Citing key recent examples on energy, transport, state subsidies and taxation, the Commissioner underlines that competition drives companies to cut prices and improve products, and brings in the investment to the economy and creates jobs.
“The EU is about its people. It's about coming together to find answers to the problems we have in common", said Commissioner Vestager, "[in this Committee], you deal with the issues that affect people’s daily lives […] and you understand what needs to be done to help them. Your opinion on our Annual Competition Report for 2014 starts with a point that I think is fundamental: competition helps everyone. Not only consumers, but businesses and workers as well."
Indeed competition prevents powerful companies denying anyone else a chance to succeed. She recalled the recent actions led at EU level to prevent them from favouring their own services and discouraging all market-players to invest in better services.
Equally, state subsidies can heavily damage employment by artificially maintaining some companies: "Our state aid rules don't allow governments to keep capacity on the market, by pumping taxpayers’ money into failing producers" concluded the Commissioner.
Commissioner Vestager confirmed her determination to investigate tax authorities' arrangements that allowed wealthy multinationals to avoid paying tax while SMEs and other small players couldn't get the same treatment.
In the following debate, EESC Members expressed their support to the policy led by Commissioner Vestager and highlighted the current issues in the steel and rail industries with regard to China - see two opinions adopted at the plenary on Granting the Market Status Economy to China and Steel industry in Europe. Social dumping was also raised, as well as tax avoidance and distortion of self-employment conditions, barriers to e-commerce for SMEs and abuse of market position in former national monopolies' sectors.
"It's vital for the health of our society, not just our economy, that we fix these problems", concluded Commissioner Vestager. "Because how can we explain to working people that their taxes have to go up, or that there's no money to provide services to the most vulnerable? […] We now need to show people that the system is fair."
The EESC President, Georges Dassis, thanked Commissioner Vestager and welcomed her socially inclusive approach to competition, encouraging her to pursue and deliver on her commitments.
Speech by Commissioner Vestager at the EEC Plenary