Is EU Merger Control Used for Protectionism? An Empirical Analysis
The European Commission has often used its merger-review power to challenge high-profile acquisitions involving non-EU companies, giving rise to concerns that its competition authority has evolved into a powerful tool for industrial policy. The Commission has been accused of deliberately targeting foreign—especially American—acquirers, while facilitating the creation of European national champions. These concerns, however, rest on a few famous anecdotes. In this Article, we introduce a unique dataset that allows us to provide the first rigorous examination of these claims. Our analysis of the over 5,000 mergers reported to the Commission between 1990 and 2014 reveals no evidence that the Commission has systematically used its authority to protectionist ends. If anything, our results suggest that the Commission is less likely to challenge transactions involving non-EU acquirers. Our analysis therefore challenges the common notion of European antitrust protectionism and shifts the burden of proof to those advancing this view.