Sustainable development, according to a well-known definition, is "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs", ensuring that today's growth does not jeopardise the growth possibilities of future generations. Undoubtedly, the EU sustainable development strategy, launched by the European Council in Gothenburg in 2001 and renewed in June 2006, represents a fundamental and overarching objective of the European Union and involves most of its policies, among which it is worthy to mention: agriculture, foods, environment, energy, transports, public health, which affect work, culture, consumption, quality of life, business and entrepreneurship, etc.
In the pursuit of achieving an efficient European Sustainable Development Strategy, a possible obstacle may be represented by a strict application of the rules of the European Competition policy, both addressed to undertakings (Article 101 TFEU prohibits anti-competitive agreements between companies; Article 102 TFEU prohibits abusive conduct by companies that have a dominant position on a market; the EC Merger Regulation 139/2004/EC declares incompatible with the common market concentrations which lead to a dominant position that significantly impedes competition; Article 106(1) TFEU prohibits the enactment of anti-competitive measures by Member States in case of public undertakings and undertakings holding special or exclusive rights) and to Member States (Article 107 TFEU declares incompatible with the internal market State aids with an anti-competitive effect).
In fact, the European Competition policy could hinder the effectiveness of the sustainable policy areas of the European Union.
The aim of the course is to focus on the perspective reconciliation of EU's sustainable policies with the European Competition policy.
To this extent, a particular attention will be dedicated to the protection of consumers, who can be harmed e.g. by dominant companies misusing their position by setting prices to high.
Another issue addressed through the lectures will be that of the controversial application of fundamental rights (and, more specifically, of the rights of defence) to companies in the context of competition proceedings: the question of finding the right balance between, on the one hand, the need to ensure a due process to undertakings and, on the other hand, the importance of efficiently prosecuting companies for competition violations (which is in the overarching general interest of consumers) will be addressed.
The enforcement of EU competition rules in the context of the sharing economy (i.e., the "peer-to-peer economy", which is gaining momentum in recent times and may be a precious tool for sustainable development) will also be discussed, with a special focus on the issue of whether enforcers should regulate sharing economy at all, as well as on the possible competition concerns.
The course purpose is to acquaint students with a general view of the aforesaid issues, through the analysis of EU principles and rules and, in particular, a large body of case law of the EU Courts (the European Court of Justice and the General Court).
Lectures will be based on specific reading materials indicated prior to each lesson.