On 14 and 15 November the 18th Baltic Competition Conference was held and this time it was dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the Competition Council of Latvia (the CC). Among other most important topics on the application of competition law, in the conference the special attention was paid to involvement of public administrative bodies - state and local governments - in business, as well as challenges of competition law of today, related to development of the digital market and the latest case law in competition law.

The event was dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the institution, therefore the Chairman of the Competition Council of Latvia Juris Gaiķis introduced the audience with work results of the institution: Approximately 500 decisions on violations of the competition law were adopted during the time period of 30 years, such as prohibited agreements and abuse of dominant position of companies, more than 400 company mergers were assessed, fines in the amount of more than 65 million euro were applied for violations of the competition law and the calculated public benefit, which exceeds the budget allocated to the institution for several times year after year. Also, conference participants were introduced with the latest public opinion survey data on competition enforcement in Latvia and challenges currently faced in Latvia, including consequences of COVID-19, inflation caused by the war, energy crisis, development of the digital market etc.

Chairman of the CC Juris Gaiķis: “We are pleased that we could celebrate the anniversary of the institution together with our colleagues from Lithuania and Estonia, international experts and competition law experts of national level, in order to discuss the current competition issues and seek a common approach to solving them The conference enables the competition supervisors of the Baltic States to collect the best practice and take over the most successful solutions in the future, especially in the supervision of public administrative bodies, to whom special attention was paid during the conference of this year.”

Considering the constant development of digital markets, the Digital Markets Act entered into force in Europe on 1 November, the purpose of which was to make the digital sector more fair and competitive, determining clear conditions with regard to big online platforms and their cooperation with customers and consumers. Xandra Reintjes, the representative of the European Commission had a speech during the conference with a presentation on the new Digital Markets Act and further cooperation of the national competition authorities with the European Commission on the supervision of digital platforms.

While Laila Mediņa, the first representative of Latvia in the European Court of Justice, holding the office of the Advocate General at the Court since 2021, presented the latest case law in competition law during the conference. Taking into account that competition law of Latvia is rooted in the law of the European Union, the judgments of the European Court of Justice significantly affect the further development of competition law not only in Latvia, but throughout the whole European Union.

Also, a special attention was paid to involvement of public administrative bodies in business during the event. Federica Maiorano, senior expert of the Competition Division of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), gave a presentation on the Competitive Neutrality Recommendations approved by the OECD, which invites countries to ensure compliance with the principles of neutrality, thus not unreasonably delaying, limiting or distorting competition in the market.

The CC supervises the neutrality regulation, which requires to follow equal rules for both, the private as well as public market participants, already since 2020, when amendments to the Competition Law entered into force. Therefore, in order to discuss on the issues of national level for engagement of public administrative bodies in entrepreneurship and compliance with the neutrality of competition, the discussion panel of national level was organized. Jānis Lielpēteris, representative of the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LTRK), Māris Butāns, representative of the Foreign Investors Council (FICIL), Pēteris Vilks, head of the Cross-Sectoral Coordination Center, and Jānis Rozenbergs, head of the Cēsis municipality, took part in the discussions. The discussion was moderated by Skaidrīte Ābrama, the long-term head of the CC, during the management of whom after efforts for several years the Competition Law was amended, which established the obligation of the state and local governments to observe the neutrality of competition in Latvia, and also granted the wider powers for the CC to address such violations.

Organization of the regional competition conference of the Baltic States once per three years is entrusted to each of the three Baltic States. The purpose of the conference is to create the discussion platform. Heads and experts from the competition authorities of the Baltic States, representatives of law offices of Latvia, academicians, stakeholders etc. participated in the conference in Riga.

The event takes place both in the format of general discussions and in separate working groups of experts on mergers, prohibited agreements, abuse of dominant position, digital markets and other topics.