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Bulgaria

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REFERENCES

Commission Opinion [COM(97) 2008 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(98) 707 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(1999) 501 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2000) 702 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2001) 700 final - SEC (2001) 1744 - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2002) 700 final - SEC (2002) 1400 - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2003) 676 final - SEC (2003) 1210 - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2004) 657 final - SEC(2004) 1199 - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2005) 534 final - SEC(2005) 1352 - Not published in the Official Journal]
Treaty of Accession to the European Union [Official Journal L 157 of 21.06.05]

SUMMARY

In its opinion of July 1997, the European Commission considered that, where restrictive agreements are concerned, Bulgaria had made some progress in taking the necessary institutional and legislative measures. However, the implementation and enforcement of the legislation required sustained structural reforms. The progress made on state aid was considered to be more modest, in particular as regards transparency in granting such aid and the establishment of a proper supervisory authority.

The November 1998 report noted the progress made in the application of the rules on restrictive agreements but also emphasised the need to make further efforts in the area of state aid (especially monitoring)

The October 1999 report noted that Bulgaria had partly met the priorities of the accession partnership. Progress had been made in the area of restrictive agreements but efforts still needed to be made concerning the monitoring of state aid.

The November 2000 report noted some progress on antitrust thanks to the reorganisation of the Committee for the Protection of Competition (CPC). However, results in terms of checks on state aid were still insufficient.

The November 2001 report acknowledged that further progress had been made in antitrust matters and state aid. The CPC, which was restructured in 2000, had done a great deal in monitoring restrictive agreements and was now also working on state aid. The setting-up of a working party on state aid law in the Ministry of Finance was a positive sign.

The October 2002 report noted that Bulgaria had made steady progress in adopting antitrust and state aid legislation, in developing the administrative capacity of the Commission for the Protection of Competition and in establishing an enforcement record. Overall, however, Bulgaria did not fully meet Community requirements as regards legislative alignment, administrative capacity and enforcement, particularly in relation to state aid.

The November 2003 report considered that Bulgaria had achieved a largely satisfactory level of alignment with the antitrust acquis. As regards state aid, however, it had not yet completed its legislative alignment.

The October 2004 report noted that Bulgarian competition policy was broadly in line with Community law in this field. However, Bulgaria needed to make further efforts with a view to accession, partly as a result of changes in Community competition law.

The October 2005 report welcomes the progress made by Bulgaria in the area of competition and considers that it should be able to implement the relevant acquis on accession, although certain adjustments are still needed.


The Treaty of Accession was signed on 25 April 2005 and accession took place on 1 January 2007.

COMMUNITY ACQUIS

The European Community rules on competition stem from Article 3(g) of the EC Treaty, which states that the activities of the Community must include "a system ensuring that competition in the internal market is not distorted". The main areas to which this applies are restrictive agreements between undertakings and the monitoring of state aid. The Community acquis in the competition field thus consists of a set of rules and procedures aimed, on the one hand, at combating anti-competitive behaviour by firms (restrictive agreements between undertakings and abuse of a dominant position) and, on the other, preventing the public authorities from granting state aid that is liable to distort competition.

The Europe Agreement with Bulgaria, which came into force on 1 February 1995, provides for a competition regime to be applied in trade relations between the Community and Bulgaria based on the requirements set out in Articles 81, 82 and 87 of the EC Treaty concerning agreements between undertakings, abuse of a dominant position and state aid, and for implementing rules in these fields to be adopted within three years of the entry into force of the Agreement.

Furthermore, the Agreement requires Bulgaria to make its rules on competition compatible with those of the Community.

The White Paper refers to the progressive application the above provisions and of those contained in the Merger Regulation and of Articles 31 and 86 of the EC Treaty concerning monopolies and special rights.

EVALUATION

Bulgarian legislation in the field of restrictive agreements, Bulgarian legislation is largely in line with the Community acquis. The Protection of Competition Act sets out the main principles of the Community rules as regards restrictive agreements, abuse of a dominant position and merger control. Since 1998 the Committee for the Protection of Competition (CPC) has been the national authority responsible for enforcing competition rules in Bulgaria. The CPC has been restructured in order to refocus resources on serious competition problems. Its administrative capacity and track record have improved and its sanctions policy is now more deterrent-oriented.

However, Bulgaria needs to make further adjustments with a view to accession. As regards legislation, it must prepare the ground for the implementation of Regulation 1/2003 and for its participation in the European competition network. In addition, the role of the CPC needs to be strengthened. It must take a more active role in identifying and removing barriers to competition, particularly in the most serious cases of distortion of competition, improve its methods of investigation and ensure that its sanctions act as an effective deterrent. Coordination between the authorities responsible for regulation and those responsible for enforcement should also continue to be reinforced.

Bulgaria has also made progress in terms of state aid legislation and implementing rules. The new State Aid Act, which entered into force in 2002, and the implementing provisions, which were amended in 2004, provide an appropriate legal framework for checks on state aid. The CPC is responsible for these checks and has the necessary powers to guarantee the enforcement of state aid legislation. The Department of State Aid at the Ministry of Finance is responsible for monitoring the checks. The progress made by Bulgaria is evidenced by the greater transparency in the control system and the adoption of a regional aid map. The CPC's track record has improved significantly both in terms of the scope and quality of its control of enforcement of state aid legislation. The administrative capacity of the CPC and the State Aid Department at the Ministry of Finance is also increasing steadily. In the energy sector, Bulgaria is committed to ending aid to coal production and district heating enterprises by the end of 2005.

In order to complete its preparations for membership, Bulgaria must continue to focus on developing its track record of enforcement of and compliance with state aid legislation. Progress is needed on adopting the new acquis. It must also continue to increase its administrative capacity, in particular by reinforcing the powers of the CPC and the Department of State Aid at the Ministry of Finance and by promoting cooperation within the administration. Bulgaria must also make additional efforts to comply with the national programme for restructuring the iron and steel industry and meet its commitment to cease state aid for this restructuring after 2005. The drawing up of a state aid coordination plan will ensure that the experience acquired can continue to be drawn after accession.

This chapter was provisionally closed, subject to confirmation of the positive trend in the state aid enforcement record. This trend has continued and Bulgaria should be able to implement the acquis relating to restrictive practices and state aid after accession. Bulgaria has not requested any transitional arrangements and is meeting its commitments.

This summary is for information only and is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document.

Last updated: 10.01.2006
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