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The Right of Defense in the Decentralized System of EU Competition Law Enforcement: A Call for Harmonization from Central and Eastern Europe

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The article compares the application of the right of defense in competition law proceedings by seven National Competition Authorities (NCAs) of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). In particular, the article focuses on four sub-rights that are part of the right of defense: right to be informed; right to access the file; privilege against self-incrimination (PASI) and legal professional privilege (LPP). The article shows that the NCAs selected as case studies generally provide lower procedural guarantees in comparison to DG Competition of the European Commission. The findings of the article are relevant in view of the Directive aiming at harmonizing the powers of NCAs (“ECN+ Directive”). The legislation aims at strengthening the investigatory tools of NCAs, while it pays limited attention to the procedural guarantees followed by NCAs. In view of the diverging application of the right of defense by the NCAs selected as case studies, the article challenges such policy choice, claiming that stronger investigative powers should be counterbalanced by a more homogenous application of the right of defense by NCAs of the EU Member States.