Wednesday, February 10, 2010

As Freight Investigations Rumble On New EU Competition Commissioner Steps In

Commissioner Designate Finally Succeeds Neelie Kroes
Shipping News Feature

EUROPE – At a time when many amongst the EU’s freight and shipping community are looking anxiously over their shoulders ( see today’s front page reports) Mr Joaquín Almunia has succeeded his tenacious predecessor Neelie Kroes who was asked to remain in post after her official tenure had finished. Ms Kroes was appointed on the 9th February as Commissioner for the Digital Agenda. Mr Almunia has been closely involved this past month in the debate over review of state aid regulation in the freight and passenger transport sectors and specifically to Government aid subsidising ports.

Amongst the issues key to the shipping industry will be Mr Almunia’s take on the current rash of corruption and anti trust investigations which he inherits from the effective Ms Kroes. Mr Almunia was insistent last month that fines recovered for transgressing EU rules was to go into the EU coffers and not find their way back to the countries where anti competition practices were said to have occurred. Many in the road, rail and airfreight industries feel strongly that the rules as they apply to sea freight carriers should extend across the whole sector.

As to the subject of administrative penalties in addition to fiscal ones Mr Almunia believes that companies guilty of breaking the Commissions competition rules can be made to suffer enough without a ban on trade and that sanctions against companies ‘are not on the Commission’s radar’.

The new commissioner was previously responsible for Economic and Monetary Affairs, he has degrees in Economics and Law and before becoming a Commissioner held prominent political posts in his native Spain for many years.