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Journal Article

Bureaucrats or Ideologues? EU Merger Control as Market‐Centred Integration


Kohl,  Sebastian
Soziologie des Marktes, MPI for the Study of Societies, Max Planck Society;
Center for European Studies, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA;

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Billows, S., Kohl, S., & Tarissan, F. (2021). Bureaucrats or Ideologues? EU Merger Control as Market‐Centred Integration. Journal of Common Market Studies, 59(4), 762-781. doi:10.1111/jcms.13130.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-B006-B
Since 1989, no major European merger has been able to go through without EU approval. The
introduction of a centralized merger control procedure was another increase in the powers of the
Commission’s Directorate‐General for Competition (DG COMP). While some see it playing a
neo‐mercantilist role in a positive European integration, others underline its neoliberal ideological
roots. Through our analysis of all merger decisions made between 1990 and 2016 (6,161 cases),
we instead find evidence for market‐centred negative integration: DG COMP is particularly harsh
towards coordinated market economies and targets sectors that have high levels of state intervention,
thus thwarting the rise of ‘European champions’. Our interviews with merger experts and the
decision citation data further suggest that this market‐centred logic of enforcement is not necessarily
driven by ideology, but by the silent logic of bureaucratic autonomy. We thus contribute to the debate on the EU as a supranational force of economic liberalization.