From 29 June 2023 to 1 July 2023 the academic competition law community met up in Athens, Greece for the annual conference of ASCOLA, the academic society for competition law, which has over 600 members worldwide. ASCOLA brings together scholars in competition law, economics and policy from across the world. This was the largest ASCOLA conference ever with 38 panels, several plenary sessions and about 150 participants from all over the world. The conference was organised by the National & Kapodistrian University of Athens and the Hellenic Competition Commission. This year, ASCOLA celebrates its 20th anniversary.
The conference had it all: ‘wheel of fortune’ speedy ‘TED talks’ (really, you had to be there to understand this properly), a birthday cake, debates between economists and policymakers, a keynote by renowned Professor Herbert Hovenkamp (University of Pennsylvania), trips to cultural highlights such as the Benaki Museum, Sounion and the Acropolis Museum, plenty of coffee-fuelled academic debate, and glorious eating, dancing and chatting after hours.
CREATe was well-represented at the conference, as it was attended by Magali Eben, Stavros Makris, and Konstantinos Stylianou.
Magali Eben chaired a panel about the goals of competition law, discussing the excellent work of Dina Waked (Professor at Sciences Po Law School), Maria Cambo Comba (Assistant Professor at Erasmus School of Law) and Maria Ioannidou (Senior Lecturer at Queen Mary University of London).
Magali Eben was also elected to the executive committee of ASCOLA. After seven years in office, Professor Michal Gal of Haifa University stepped down as president. Rupprecht Podszun of the University of Düsseldorf, previously Vice President, was elected as her successor. He will run ASCOLA with his team: Vice Presidents are Peter Picht (Zurich, VP for finances), Thomas Cheng (Hong Kong), Magali Eben (Glasgow), Giorgio Monti (Tilburg) and Wendy Ng (Melbourne). Magali was, and remains for the moment, co-director of the regional chapter ASCOLA UK, alongside Or Brook (Associate Professor at the University of Leeds). Further information on the election of the new board can be found here.
Stavros Makris presented his co-authored work with Elias Deutscher (Lecturer at University of East Anglia) on “Merger Control and Sustainability”. Stavros and Elias won ASCOLA’s Best Junior Paper Award, being praised for the excellence of their research. The paper argues that sustainability concerns should be factored in merger analysis when they are ‘competition relevant’. This is the case when the (positive or negative) sustainability effects of a merger are positively correlated with a parameter of competition or when the merging or non-merging parties contest their pre-merger (or post-merger) sales on the basis of a sustainability parameter. Against this backdrop, the paper develops a systematic taxonomy of different types of competition-relevant sustainability effects and explores five pathways through which such effects could be incorporated in merger assessments. The paper builds on previous work published in the Journal of Antitrust Enforcement (available here) and is forthcoming in Julian Nowag (ed) Sustainability and Competition Law (Edward Elgar 2024).
Stavros also presented his paper on the “The Effective Competitive Constraint Standard”. In this paper Stavros proposes a standard that could address the weaknesses of the consumer welfare standard. According to the effective competitive consitraints standard, harm to competition should be considered as established when a form of collusion or exclusion (or a combination thereof) diminishes effective competitive constraints without any offsetting procompetitive benefits. This standard draws on various strands of existing case law, and is not supposed to replace, but rather to complement the consumer welfare standard. In April, Stavros published a blog based on this work for ProMarket as part of his contribution to the Stigler Center’s 2023 Antitrust and Competition conference at the University of Chicago.
Konstantinos Stylianou presented his empirical work with Marios Iacovides (Assistant Professor at Uppsala University) on “The New Goals of EU Competition Law: A Comprehensive Empirical Investigation into Sustainability, Workers’ Rights, and Privacy”. This project tracked over 4000 decisions and opinions by the EU Court of Justice, Advocates General, and the European Commission, to document whether EU competition law actually pursues what many commentators present as its new goals and purposes (spoiler: it mostly doesn’t).
D’Kart has published a fun account of the conference, written by Friso Bostoen (Lecturer at the University of Tilburg), Madlen Karg (Researcher at TU Munich) and Florence Thepot (Lecturer at University of Strasbourg and formerly University of Glasgow).
Next year’s conference will take place from 4-6 July 2024 in Würzburg, Germany, upon invitation by Professor Florian Bien and Dr Björn-Christian Becker from the University of Würzburg. Magali, Stavros and Konstantinos hope to see you there!