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Competition Law and Policy in the Baltics

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The Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have made significant progress in their transition to market economies since achieving independence in 1991. An important part of the transition process has been the development of competition policy in the region. All three countries enacted competition laws in the early 1990s, and all three enacted new, “second generation” laws in 1998-99. As a part of an OECD/Baltic Region Co-operative Programme, OECD experts conducted a review of competition policy in each country and wrote detailed reports of their findings. Following completion of the reports a five day conference was held in Riga, Latvia, at which the reports and their findings and recommendations were discussed. The reports conclude that all three competition agencies are actively enforcing their law, and have achieved some success in the short time of their existence. Much remains to be done, however. In exercising their enforcement responsibilities the agencies face problems that are specific to transition countries, including the existence of many dominant firms, especially in sectors having network infrastructure characteristics, and ongoing interference with markets by government bodies. Few cartel cases have been brought in these countries, and the agencies are not yet adept at obtaining evidence of such agreements. In institutional matters, the agencies are confronted with a chronic lack of resources, which because of limited budgets must be solved principally by improving efficiency. Notwithstanding that their new competition laws provide for a degree of independence of the competition agency from outside political influence, the agencies continue to strive to achieve it in fact. Underlying almost every advance in competition policy in these countries is the development of a “competition culture” among the citizens, the government and the business community. The following is a summary of the OECD reports, organised in the same manner as the reports themselves. Highlights and conclusions from the conference are presented in italic type in the relevant sections of the summary.

Page Count: 21
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Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: 01 September 1999

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