Judicial Interpretation and Competition Rules: Excessively Stringent Standard of Proof as a Threat for Effectiveness of Competition Law

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This article argues that more than thirty years after democratic and economic transition, the legacy of authoritarian legal culture in post-socialist EU Member States limits the effectiveness of competition law enforcement. Concentrating on Croatia but mindful of the experience of other Central and East European countries that acceded to the EU in 2004 and 2007, we show examples of post-accession case law illustrative of excessive judicial formalism and disassociation between the legal norm and its socio-economic context in judicial interpretation. Also, we explain how the excessively stringent legal standard of proof for cartel agreements, established by Croatian courts post-accession, indicates an incomplete semantic alignment with EU competition rules. Furthermore, we discuss the difference in legal cultures between the judiciary and the competition authority by using the notion of “skewed agencification” and show how slow reception of EU competition law standards by the judiciary adversely impacts the enforcement of competition rules.