On 15-16 May, the 15th Baltic Competition Conference takes place in Riga, which is an annual experience exchange event of competition supervisory authorities of three neighbouring countries. In this year, among the most significant competition law application topics particular attention will be paid to competition distortions caused by public administrative bodies – state and local municipalities – and facilities for elimination of such distortion.

The conference is participated by managers and experts of Baltic competition authorities. This event is implemented both in the format of joint discussions and in separate expert working groups on company mergers, prohibited agreements and abuse of dominant position, topicalities in the court practice etc.

Alongside the traditional issues of competition law application, the representatives of the Baltic states at the 15th Baltic Competition Conference also address competition distortions caused by public administrative bodies, which is a topical matter in Baltic States. It has to be noted, that the competition supervisory authority of Lithuania is entitled to prevent competition law infringements by public administrative bodies.

Märt Ots, Director General of the Estonian Competition Authority: „The issue of so-called state capitalism is of great importance. Surely, there are many specific areas where state or local governments should remain to be service providers, but it is time to challenge the old systems that are out of date.  Where private sector is able, willing and ready to provide better quality services at lower prices, it should be able to compete with public sector at equal conditions.  The importance and the vitality of competition policy is reflected by the Directive proposed by the European Commission to enable Member State´s competition authorities to be more effective enforcers. The proposed rules pave the way for achieving better results, also addressing the competition distortions by public administrative bodies.”

Šarūnas Keserauskas, the Chairman of the Competition Council of Lithuania: “There is much talk about fairness in competition law nowadays. I think it would be fair to demand fairness from the state itself and expect state authorities not to restrict competition on markets without a good cause. This is especially relevant when those authorities both regulate the market and act on the same market themselves either directly or through state or municipal-owned companies. This is exactly why Lithuanian competition authority has a long-standing practice on enforcing competition law not only against businesses but also against the public bodies that restrict competition, for example by discriminating certain business entities and granting privileges to others.”

Skaidrīte Ābrama, the Chairwoman of the Competition Council of Latvia: “Competition distortions by public administrative bodies is a problem issue, which is characteristic not only in Latvia. Unfortunately, unlike other countries, including our neighbours, the Competition Council of Latvia still does not have the authority to address competition distortions by public administrative bodies efficiently – adoption of amendments to the Competition Law is stuck already for the third year, leaving the Competition Council only with such inefficient prevention tools as recommendation, calls and requests.”

The special guest of the conference is a representative of the European Commission, who will acquaint the participants with the investigation process of competition law infringements in the European Commission. To extend the exchange of experience, there also will be guests from competition supervisory authorities of Ukraine, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Georgia among the participants of the conference.

Organisation of the regional Baltic Competition Conference is entrusted to each of three Baltic states once in every three years. The main objective of this conference is exchange of information and experience, as well as strengthening of cooperation among the involved countries, thus ensuring increasingly more efficient investigation of infringements and market surveillance.