Following an overview of developments worth noting in Serbia and Montenegro, respectively, here are the highlights of 2017 in the competition law of Macedonia (FYROM).

Antitrust: Breweries Pay Millions of Euros in Fines

To start with, 2017 was the year for the Macedonian Competition Commission to go after breweries. It fined two of them, both for hardcore vertical restraints.

The first fine went to Pivara Skopje AD (Skopje Brewery). Specifically, the Commission ordered the brewery to pay EUR 5.8 million for having price-fixing clauses in contracts with its distributors in the period between 2012 and 2017.

The second fine was for Prilepska Pivarnica AD (Prilep Brewery). This brewery got a fine of EUR 2.7 million. Its wrongdoing: vertical price-fixing and non-compete of indefinite duration. The Macedonian Commission considers both of these as restrictions by object.

Individual Exemption: No Decisions – No Wonder

During 2017 did not render a single decision granting individual exemption to a restrictive agreement notified to it. This is actually not surprising – since, unlike Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia does not have a notification system for individual exemption! Rather, the parties are supposed to self-assess their agreement.

This reminds me of the dilemma present in Serbia: to abandon the notification system or not? Personally, I think the best solution would be to have both.

Merger Control: The Highest Number of Decisions Ever?

The Macedonian Competition Commission publishes its decisions with a certain time lag. For instance, the latest published merger decision is from August 2017. Due to this, at the moment it’s not possible to perform an in-depth analysis of the authority’s merger control activities during the previous year. Nevertheless, what is indicative is a high number of merger decisions.

At the moment, the Competition Commission’s website features 36 merger decisions, all unconditional Phase I clearances. This number will certainly rise since, as noted, the latest published decisions dates back from August. So far, the year with the highest number of merger decisions in Macedonia was 2015, with 42. This may well be surpassed in 2017.

State Aid: Awaiting the Commission’s Annual Report

The Balkan countries have a different approach towards State aid control: some have a special watchdog for the enforcement of State aid rules while others have entrusted State aid control to their competition authority.

Specifically, Serbia and Bosnia have special State aid authorities, while in Macedonia the Competition Commission deals with State aid as well. As for Montenegro, it currently has a special State Aid Commission, but, as reported earlier, State aid control is to become a prerogative of the country’s Competition Commission.

Unfortunately, the last State aid decision published by the Macedonian Competition Commission dates from September 2016, which means we will have to wait for the publication of the Commission’s annual report to see whether anything interesting happened in this field.