European champions – Why politics should stay out of EU merger control

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On 19 February 2019, the French and German Ministers of the Economy published a Manifesto proposing far-reaching reforms to EU merger control rules that, among other things, would inject political oversight into decision- making in an effort to support the creation of European champions. This article examines the historical treatment of European champions under EU merger control rules and explains that the Manifesto’s proposal risks upending the broad consensus that industrial policy considerations should remain outside the scope of EU merger control. The proposal would fundamentally change the architecture of European merger control, replacing expert analysis conducted within a well-defined legal framework with political decision-making. The EC’s role would be subordinated and the transparency and consistency that has characterised EU merger control for 30 years would be diminished.