The Dutch European Law association (NVER, short for Nederlandse Vereniging voor Europees recht) dedicated its spring meeting last week ( 11 April 2014) to supervision in the EU. The meeting entitled ‘The visible hand: Supervisory authorities in the EU‘, was organized in honour of professor Annetje Ottow who has chaired the board of directors of NVER for many years before handing over the scepter to Corina Wissels. The speakers came from different sectors and various backgrounds which provided for the possibility of a comparative oversight of supervision in the EU. Three different case studies (competition, energy and financial markets) were discussed by five experts under the direction of honorary chairman professor Annetje Ottow (Non-Executive Director, UK Competition & Markets Authority). Mira Scholten (Post-doctoral Researcher, Utrecht University School of Law) who recently successfully defended her thesis ‘The political accountability of EU agencies in comparison with the US IRAs’ at Maastricht University, gave an introduction on supervision in general. She stated that there is no such thing as an optimal model for supervision in general, because of the specific demands of each sector. Mira did point out that common challenges exist such as questions on the independence and accountability of supervisory authorities. Monique van Oers (Director Legal Affairs, Authority for Consumers and Markets) provided an overview of the development of the enforcement of competition law in the Netherlands with information on discussions on the legal form of the organization and the level of independence and structures for accountability. Jeroen Capiau (Policy Officer DG Competition, European Commission) presented the recent developments in the methods of supervision within the European Competition Network. Although the harmonization of supervisory practices of national competition authorities (NCAs) is not prescribed by EU law, some common trends can be seen. One of these is for example that more and more NCAs combine the competition law enforcement with other (sector specific) supervisory activities, such as consumer protection, of which the Authority for Consumers and Markets is an excellent example. Laura Wissink (Policy advisor, De Nederlandsche Bank) then proceeded with a presentation on banking supervision in particular the Single Supervisory Mechanism and the division of tasks and responsibilities between the European Central Bank and national supervisory authorities such as De Nederlandsche Bank. Martijn Groenleer (Lecturer and Researcher, Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management, TU Delft) explained the extraordinary characteristics of the energy sector and the consequences of these for supervision in the energy sector. A question from the audience on whether there are any projects known to compare supervisory activities in sectors, was answered in the negative, although Laura Wissink (Policy advisor, De Nederlandsche Bank), did comment that the enforcement of EU competition Law in the European Competition Network is now being looked at for inspiration at the Dutch Central Bank.
One of the main conclusions is that the specificities of each sector determine the form and method of supervision very much, but that a comparative analysis may provide interesting insights.