As the guardian of the competition on the European Union single market, European Commission outlines the policy regarding development of EU competition law. It also conducts antitrust and merger control proceedings, for which it shares jurisdiction with national competition agencies. During these proceedings, European Commission acquires a great amount of sensitive and confidential information about undertakings that are subjects of the competition proceedings. In the past years, third parties have tried to use several tactics in the view of achieving access to the European Commission’s competition files, one of which was by making use of the right to public access to documents, regulated by Regulation 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents. European Commission was not in favour of disclosure of documents under the aforementioned regulation and relied on exemptions regarding access to documents. It also argued a contrariness of the right to public access with regulations concerning competition law, which oblige the Commission to protect business secrets of the subjects of competition law procedures.
The concept of access to Commission’s file is linked to the trend of private competition law enforcement, as information asymmetry that injured parties are exposed to is one of the main obstacles to proving damages in damages proceedings due to breach of competition law. By invoking exemptions and refusing access to documents, the Commission thus missed the opportunity to offset information asymmetries and prioritised public enforcement over private enforcement of competition.
In this thesis, I use case law, Commission decisions and legislation to describe the policy pursued by the EU Commission in the area of access to documents in competition proceedings.