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Abstract

This paper assesses the functioning of the European Competition Network (ECN) introduced by the EC’s modernisation package of 2004 to replace the European Commission’s enforcement monopoly in the field of competition law. By all accounts, and contrary to the fears of early critics, the modernisation of EC competition policy and the decentralisation of its enforcement have not led to disintegration within the network of competition regulators. The institutional differences between national competition authorities (NCAs) have so far not had a negative impact. The ECN is fuelled by the nature of the increasingly technocratic and expert-driven discipline of competition law, as well as by the Commission’s conscious strategy of ‘soft’ centralisation. The new system is also reinforcing a specific perspective on competition law, focused on market efficiency, and viewed as an autonomous discipline divorced from outside pressures and influence by the Member States. Even though such a conclusion seems counterintuitive, overall the ECN has had, and is likely to have, a unifying effect both in enforcement and in policy formation. There are, however, pressures in the opposite direction, which might become stronger as the NCAs’ experience grows and horizontal communication increases in frequency.