EU to have new merger control rules from 1 May 2004

The ECOFIN meeting of 20 January 2004 gave its final approval to the EU’s new Merger Regulation.

After the unanimous political agreement reached on the new merger rules in the Competitiveness Council of 27 November 2003 (seeEURACTIV 28 Nov. 2003), ECOFIN ministers gave their final approval of the proposed regulation on 20 January 2004.

Under the original Merger Regulation adopted in 1989, the Commission has exclusive jurisdiction for mergers or acquisitions between companies with a combined worldwide turnover of at least five billion euro and a turnover within the European Economic Area of more than 250 million euro for each of them. The regulation provides a 'one stop shop' for companies to have their mergers cleared. It reduces costs, bureaucracy and legal uncertainty for the companies involved.

In 2001, the Commission launched a comprehensive reform of its regime. The reform aimed at strengthening the one stop shop concept and at introducing more flexibility into the timesframes of investigations. It also redefines the 'substantive test' procedure that the Commission uses to evaluate the effects of the merger and provides guidelines on the assessment of mergers.

The new rules will take effect from 1 May 2004.


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