The merger between Abertis of Spain and Autostrade of Italy (both toll motorway management companies) was given the approval of the European Commission on 22 September.  Since then Italy has proceeded to block the already authorized merger and the European Commission has come to the preliminary conclusion that Italy has violated Article 21 of the EU Merger Regulation.  This gives the Commission exclusive competence to assess concentrations with a European dimension and is only overridden when countries are protecting certain legitimate interests.  The Italian authorities have been invited to express their views on the Commission’s preliminary assessment within ten working days.  This latest case bears more than a resemblance to the E.ON/Endesa case different strands of which are finding their way through the European court system.  Both show the determination of Brussels to crack down on protectionist governments.

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