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The Legal Impact of the European Community Competition Rules on the MENA Legal Systems

Within its general framework, the conference aims to introduce competition commitments of Mediterranean countries under the cooperation agreements signed with the European Union (EU). The conference also sheds light on the implementation of the European consolidated competition rules at the European Court of Justice as well as Mediterranean countries’ policies and regulations in general, and those of Palestine in particular. The conference also explores the model preferred by these countries, especially by Palestine, in light of current institutional and economic defects.
Additionally, the conference highlights the importance and feasibility of a competition law in Palestine, given that the Euro- Mediterrnean Partnership provides that Palestine should enact a law on competition that conforms to EU competition rules. The conference also attempts to identify characteristics of the Palestinian competition law as well as present most significant and best international practices that help enact au up-to-date competition law.
Opening Session:
Dr. Nabil Kassis, President of Birzeit University, launched the conference and welcomed all participants. Dr. Kassis asserted that the regulation of competition is the most important component of market oversight. The Palestinian-European Competition Agreement explicitly provides that Palestine adopt competition rules conforming to those of the EU.
Dr. Kassis also affirmed that the Palestinian economic system should be converted into a free economy that has its own pillars. Most importantly, appropriate policies on market control and stability should be in place. In addition, rules and frameworks protecting rights arising from economic transactions should be put forth through an effective market oversight. In fact, competent markets are inherently dependent on effective oversight.
Additionally, Dr. Kassis stated that regulation and protection of competition on Palestinian markets from illegal practices is not only a national interest, but it is also an international requirement to facilitate Palestine’s international trade.
Mr. Thomas Bringer highlighted Palestine’s role in the Mediterranean area. However, the Palestinian role should be promoted through the regulation of competition rules and controls. Mr. Bringer also emphasised ongoing cooperation between Konrad Adenauer Stifung and Institute of Law (IoL) at Birzeit University. Such cooperation could be furthered to support IoL’s activities. Therefore, rule of law and infrastructure of the Palestinian legal system will be enhanced.
Dr. Samer al Fares, IoL Director, thanked Konrad Adenauer Stifung for its continuous support to IoL. Dr. Al Fares said that this conference is part of IoL Legal Encounter Series that is held in cooperation with Konrad Adenauer Stifung to promote the Palestinian-European Partnership Agreement.
First Session
Entitled “European Competition Rules and Mediterranean Countries Area”, Dr. Kamil Mansour presided over the first session.
In his paper on the “Economic Reform and the Environment of Palestinian External Trade: Reality and Future Requirements”. Dr. Samir Abdullah addressed the following issues:
  • Major challenges impeding the Palestinian economy as well as priorities of reform and economic reform.
  • Importance of external trade.
  • Main constraints and Palestinian commercial agreements with other countries:
    1. Framework of external trade prior to Oslo Agreement .
    2. Paris Protocol.
    3. European-Mediterranean Partnership.
    4. Arab countries.
    5. USA and other free trade areas.

Dr. Abdullah highlighted challenges facing the Palestinian economy, including Israeli restrictions and administrative constraints on Palestinian external trade. Dr. Abdullah also affirmed priorities of economic reform by restructuring and updating the industrial sector as well as promoting economic reform through a legal reform. In this context, economic legislation should be in line with the best international practices and in conformity with the Palestinian reality.

In the second paper, Dr. Eve Montani presented the major problems which Belgium faced in the context of implementing competition rules. Dr. Montani also addressed Belgium’s relentless efforts to introduce oversight systems over merging between companies as well as establish competition councils that monitor merging and prevent monopolies. However, these councils witness several defects, including insufficient financial resources. Dr. Montani concluded that competition rules are easy to be set forth, but difficult to be enforced.

In the third paper, Katika Comlos addressed the basic components of EU competition rules, including prevention of monopoly, regulation of merging, protection from companies’ hegemony, and governmental subsidies. Comlos also highlighted the relevance of EU competition rules to economy and consumer protection. In addition, Comlos presented problems witnessed by the German Competition Authority in the implementation of the EU law.

In his paper entitled, “Dose Palestine Need Laws on Competition”, Dr. ‘Adel az Zagha presented several reasons, justifications and obstacles in the way to promulgating a competition law in Palestine, including governmental intervention in the economy as well as internal and external factors affecting the Palestinian economy. Dr. Az Zagha also addressed rules of competition and economic competence and explored the most significant integrated competition components. Dr. Az Zagha concluded that sometimes monopoly is necessary.

At the end of the first session, questions were centred on whether it is feasible that the competition oversight body be an administrative, not judicial, one. In addition, participants raised the importance of a competition law to be enacted in Palestine. Competition policies should also be part of an overall reform plan.

Second Session: 
Under presidency of Dr. Firas Milhem, four lectures were presented. Ghassan ‘Amayreh, from the Palestinian Ministry of National Economy, presented the Ministry’s efforts to regulate competition as well as develop competition rules in light of an absent a consolidated competition law. Will such a situation create problems for Palestine with its partners in international trade agreements? Although Paris Protocol does not address this situation, does Palestine really need to develop a policy on competition? ‘Amayreh also addressed the mechanisms adopted by the Ministry to develop a Palestinian draft competition law to regulate competition on the market.
In his critique of the Palestinian draft competition law, Dr. Basem Makhoul addressed a substantial problem in the draft law: two version have been submitted to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and to other authorities. Dr. Makhoul also stated that the draft competition law overlaps with the Law Concerning the Protection of Consumers, Company Law, Law Concerning Intellectual Property, etc. In addition, Dr. Makhoul addressed the gaps and defects in the draft competition law.
In his paper on the “Extent of Harmony of the Palestinian Draft Competition Law with International Standards”, Dr. Amin Dawwas said that the two versions of the Palestinian draft competition law do not meet international standards. Dr. Dawwas emphasised gaps and defects in the draft law and proposed a number of solutions and recommendations. For example, a party other than the Ministry can assume the administration of the competition committee. In addition, a specialised court should be formed. Members on such a count can be economic specialists, not judges.
In the last paper on the “Effect of EU Competition Rules on the Palestinian Legal System”, Dr. Samer al Fares focused on Article (30) under the European-Mediterranean Agreement as well as its relation to Articles (81, 82, and 83) under the EU Treaty. Dr. Al Fares addressed the meaning of Article (30) and whether it bears a direct effect on the Palestinian legal system. In addition, a Palestinian national institution for competition is to be established. Finally, Dr. Al Fares highlighted the role of Palestinian courts in the implementation of the EU competition rules.
At the end of the second session, participants emphasised the importance of a flexible and simple competition law. Due to PLC’s postponing of the approval of the draft competition law, the Palestinian economy has been converted into a monopolised economy. The law must also be flexible so as to encourage merging between companies as well as prevent monopoly.
Recommendations and Results: 
  1. Enact a Palestinian law on competition; such a law is one of the economic pillars of the economic system in Palestine.
  2. Review the package of laws regulating the Palestinian economy before addressing the necessity of promulgating a competition law.
  3. Submit observations to the PLC as well as to concerned parties regarding provisions under the draft competition law.
  4. Take into consideration particularities of the Palestinian economic situation upon proposing regulations on any economic aspect.