Competition policy to be examined later this year.

Innovation and open markets will be at the heart of the European Commission’s review of competition policy later this year, EU antitrust tsar Neelie Kroes pledged at a conference hosted by the Commission in Brussels Wednesday (June 14).

Her vow comes at a time when the music and media sectors have been subjects of the EC’s antitrust probes.

Sony’s merger with Bertelsmann in 2004 was only cleared after an indepth investigation into whether the combined music giant would have an unfair dominant position, and whether the music majors already operated an effective cartel.

Plans to merge EMI and Warner also look set to face the Commission’s scrutiny.

Elsewhere, the Commission fined Microsoft nearly half a billion euros in 2004 for abuse of its dominant market position, in a case that is still on appeal before EU courts.

Kroes, the EU’s competition commissioner, said the review would seek to ensure markets remain open and competitive and that all companies, including dominant ones, have the opportunity to compete hard and to innovate.

“We have to ensure that dominant companies do not over-step the line and decrease competition rather than increase it - or stifle innovation rather than promote it,” she said.

The comments, at a conference gathering of lawyers, economists and academics, will be used to help the EC decide by the year's end on its guidelines interpreting the EU treaty's Article 82, which covers antitrust.