The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant economic disruption, including supply shortages, cost increases, and liquidity constraints resulting from a prolonged shutdown. As EU Member States and businesses respond to these challenges, and even as lockdown measures are gradually eased, their actions continue to raise potential issues under competition law.
In response, the Commission has undertaken several steps, as reported in our March 2020 EU Competition Law Newsletter and April 2020 EU Competition Law Newsletter. In May 2020, the following additional steps are noteworthy:
- In the agricultural sector, the Commission adopted a package of measures to support farmers, particularly in the dairy market, which will benefit from a temporary derogation from EU antitrust rules (until September 30, 2020) allowing them to coordinate production volumes, storage and withdrawal of milk and milk products from the market. An overview of further guidance on Covid-19 related measures, and key takeaways for companies, is available here.
- While the Commission has taken a number of practical steps to minimize disruptions and delays related to merger control reviews in light of COVID-19, it has not needed to adopt any substantive or procedural changes. Some practical guidance on merger control implications of the pandemic for businesses contemplating transactions—including on the “failing firm” defense—is available here.
- State aid. On May 8, 2020, the Commission issued a new communication aimed at further relaxing State aid rules for COVID-19-related equity injections by States. An overview of this communication is available here. By the end of May, the Commission had cleared more than 154 measures under these rules, including a number of measures to support airlines (such as Air France, Scandinavian Airlines, and Finnair).
These initiatives mirror actions by national competition agencies and other enforcers globally. These developments are monitored in our COVID-19 Resource Center.
|Commission implementing regulation No. 2020/599 of 30 April 2020 authorising agreements and decisions on the planning of production in the milk and milk products sector||Link|
|DG Competition page on antitrust rules and coronavirus||Link|
|Commission communication amending the Temporary Framework for State aid measures to support the economy in the current COVID-19 outbreak (May 8, 2020)|
|Commission consolidated version of the Temporary Framework as amended on April 3, 2020 and May 8, 2020||Link|
|Amended notification template for aid measures introduced under Article 107(2)(b) TFEU||Link|
|DG Competition page on State aid rules and coronavirus||Link|
|List of Member State measures approved under Article 107(2)(b) TFEU and the Temporary Framework||Link|
 See Commission implementing regulation (EU) 2020/599 of 30 April 2020, OJ 2020, L 140/37. Similar suspension of antitrust rules was adopted with respect to growers of flowers and potatoes.