The Chief Competition Economist in DG Competition: between Facts and Values

Carlo Petrucci

Economics is now fully embedded in the decision-making process within DG Comp. The establishment in 2003 of the Chief Competition Economist (CCE) with its role in providing independent guidance on methodological economic issues epitomises this change. Its functions are not limited to assisting DG comp in the day-to-day work, but also to providing independent opinions to the College of Commissioners before they adopt a competition law decision. Even among economists, it is often claimed that economics is a technique to provide sound methodology to ascertain economic facts. In reality, it is important to distinguish between two dimensions of economics. The first sees economics as an epistemic tool, whose purpose is to gain knowledge about economic phenomena. On this account, it conceives economics as a value-free method of inquiry, which fits the above-mentioned view of economists. The second understands economics as a system, which embeds, but does not disclose, normative and epistemic values. The way the mandate of the CCE is drafted seems consistent with the conception of economics as an epistemic tool. Against this background, the paper examines the work of the CCE within DG Comp. In particular, it makes a comparison between the CCE's advice given in the context of policy-making, and that given in the context of administrative decisions on business arrangements that falls within the purview of DG Comp. By making such comparison, the paper attempts to identify whether, and if so, the extent to which, values underpinning economics become more visible in the context of policy-making rather than in enforcement decisions in competition law.

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