It may be hard for some to believe now, but when the European Commission was first given jurisdiction over large mergers in the 1989 Merger Control Regulation (which came into force in late 1990) it was enacted in the face of substantial opposition and scepticism. Many commentators expressed reservations that the commission was bound to fail in its task. Some of the objections turned on substantive issues but even more of them were essentially procedural. In particular, how could an organisation which routinely took two or three years to review a simple notification of a commercial practice be expected to handle potentially complex mergers in large numbers and in a fraction of that time? References to “old dogs” and “new tricks” abounded. There was widespread concern that the tight deadlines which were imposed as part of the bargain for being given these powers would prove impossible to respect, and there was much discussion of the consequences of those fixed time limits expiring without a decision.
This article originally appeared in MLex Magazine.