The role of ‘freedom’ in EU competition law


  • Pınar Akman

    Corresponding author
    1. University of East Anglia
    • Pınar Akman, UEA Law School, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK. Email:

    Search for more papers by this author
    • The author wishes to thank Peter Whelan, Morten Hviid, Michael Harker, Daithí Mac Síthigh and Oles Andriychuk for helpful comments and suggestions. Support by the ESRC Centre for Competition Policy, University of East Anglia is gratefully acknowledged. The usual disclaimer applies.


An initial reading of EU competition law jurisprudence and literature may suggest that there might be a competition-related freedom in the EU, expressed along the lines of ‘freedom of competition’ or ‘freedom to compete’. If competition is to be protected as a ‘freedom’ rather than merely as a ‘policy’, what this freedom involves should be established. It is important to establish the role of ‘freedom’, since it has been argued that EU competition law is a product of or has been significantly influenced by ‘ordoliberalism’. Under ordoliberalism, protecting the ‘economic freedom’ of market actors is the aim of competition policy. This paper examines the entire jurisprudence of the EU Courts to establish the role of ‘freedom’ in EU competition law as perceived by the EU Courts. This inquiry establishes whether ordoliberalism has so fundamentally influenced the jurisprudence that welfare-based objectives cannot be adopted as an/the objective of EU competition law. This is the first such comprehensive study regarding ‘freedom’ in EU competition law. The paper demonstrates that there is little quantitative or qualitative support for the ordoliberal argument when one considers the relevant jurisprudence. A quantitative analysis of the case-law and in particular the historical trend raises serious doubts concerning the validity of the conventional ordoliberal-influence thesis.