Like most of Europe, Serbia has been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. How does this affect merger control in Serbia?
By far the most interesting development in the competition law of Bosnia and Herzegovina was the first conditional merger clearance in the history of the country’s national competition authority – the Competition Council.
In a nutshell, what was worth noting in Serbian competition law in 2019?
For more than two years already, a new Serbian Competition Act has been brewing. Now, a draft of the new legislation has been published. If adopted, what changes will it bring to Serbian competition law?
During 2018, the Serbian national competition authority (NCA), the Commission for Protection of Competition of the Republic of Serbia, has continued with a high level of enforcement activity. This resulted in a number of new cases and in other interesting developments in Serbian competition law.
Unlike the current EU mechanism, Serbia’s system of individual exemption of restrictive agreements is still based on prior notification to the competition authority – the Commission for Protection of Competition. However, it seems this is about to change.
A peculiarity of competition law enforcement in Bosnia and Herzegovina is what could be called an ‘ethnic veto’ – there has to be a sort of an ethnic consensus within the Bosnian competition authority in order for any decision to be adopted. And, combined with the rules limiting the maximum duration of proceedings before the Competition Council, this in practice may lead to the blockade in the watchdog’s competition law enforcement.
Similar to the question who can challenge the Competition Commission’s individual exemption decisions, it is not entirely clear who can attack the Serbian watchdog’s merger decisions. And while the scope of such parties may currently be narrow, this could change with the adoption of a new Competition Act.
In the process of the drafting of the new Serbian Competition Act, apart from the merger filing thresholds, an issue drawing particular attention is how the individual exemption of restrictive agreements should be set up: whether the system of prior notification should be retained or whether self-assessment should be introduced. Actually, perhaps the best solution would be to have both – and (earlier) EU law offers a basis for that.
Serbia is soon to get a new Competition Act, and while it’s uncertain which parts of the current law will be reformed, it’s unlikely the current low filing thresholds will survive. Here is a proposal on how the new filing thresholds could be set.