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Corona and EU Economic Law:

Competition and Free Movement in Times of Crisis


Friso Bostoen, Nina Colpaert, Wouter Devroe, Joris Gruyters, Lennard Michaux, Liesbet Van Acker


This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Licence Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

Keywords: corona, EU economic law, competition law, internal market law, public procurement

The outbreak of the coronavirus—and the responses of governments and businesses to combat the medical and economic crisis it entails—raise a number of urgent questions, many of which concern European economic law, ie the competition rules and free movement provisions. Can businesses cooperate to guarantee the supply of essential items or a vaccine notwithstanding the cartel prohibition of Article 101 TFEU? Is the excessive price doctrine of Article 102 TFEU a match for the price increases caused by hoarding behaviour? Can competition authorities continue to assess mergers, and might they even become more sympathetic to certain arguments such as the failing firm defence and industrial policy considerations? Under which conditions are Member States allowed to grant aid to undertakings that face economic difficulties due to the crisis? Can Member States prohibit the export of medical supplies to other Member States, and can they close their borders for European citizens? And how much freedom do public procurement rules leave governments to quickly conclude contracts for essential supplies? This article addresses these pressing questions in a comprehensive manner. It situates the numerous guidance documents adopted by the European Commission within the broader framework of EU economic law and then evaluates the compatibility of the public and private corona-related measures with that framework. The aim is to offer a legal guide for governments and businesses combatting the corona crisis.
Keywords: corona; EU economic law; competition law; internal market law; public procurement

All authors are affiliated with the Institute for Consumer, Competition & Market at the KU Leuven (University of Leuven), either as full professor (Wouter Devroe) or as PhD researchers (other authors). Friso Bostoen is also a fellow of the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO). Correspondence: <>. This article originates from a series of blog posts published on the CoRe Blog, see <> and is updated until 19 April 2020 (all links have been last accessed on that date as well).


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