Brian Hartnett is managing partner of our Brussels office and co-chair of our Competition-Antitrust practice. Since entering private practice in 1983, Brian has focused on the laws of the European Union (EU) with a particular emphasis on the application of European competition rules (including the state aid rules). He is a barrister and member of both the English and Irish Bars. Brian originally worked in the Competition Directorate of the European Commission and has for the past 27 years represented US- and Europe-based companies both as plaintiffs and defendants before the Commission in Brussels and the European Courts of Justice in Luxembourg.

    He has extensive experience across a broad range of sectors including in the telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, financial services, petrochemicals, IT and media, and retail (FMCG). The 2016 edition of Chambers Global, 2016 edition of The Legal 500 EMEA, 2012 edition of Legal Experts Europe, Middle East & Africa and the 2011 edition of PLC Which Lawyer? Yearbook acknowledge his expertise in EU competition and antitrust law. He has been recognized as the “Cartel Lawyer of the Year” by International Competition Magazine and was one of two competition lawyers worldwide to be recognized as an “all-star” in the BTI annual global survey.

    Brian has been involved in some of the most significant cartel, state aid and merger cases within the EU during the past 20 years. Most recently, he has been retained as defence counsel in a wide range of cartel cases including the Air Freight, LCD Screen, Optical Disk Drive, Refrigeration Compressors and Car Components cases.

    In the state aid field he has successfully represented major multinationals in actions against Member States, both before the Commission and the Courts and equally has successfully defended companies the subject of a Commission investigation. He acts as counsel to national governments and has recently successfully defended the Slovak State in a state aid investigation.

    In the area of merger control, Brian regularly represents parties seeking to obtain approval for complex transactions before either the European Commission or national competition authorities. Over the years he has been involved in some of the largest and most significant mergers and joint ventures.

    Brian also represents companies in competition cases before national competition authorities including in the UK, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Czech Republic and Ireland.

    Brian has written extensively in the field of EU competition law. He is a member of the Irish Society for European Lawyers, the Brussels Association of Irish Lawyers and the International Bar Association.

    Award Mouse thought multimedia interface book medal screen monitor
    • Representing a major multinational in the petrochemical sector in a state aid case against the French Republic.
    • Representing a satellite internet service provider in a state aid procedure against a member state.
    • Representing a major international airline in the Air Freight Cartel case.
    • Representing a Japanese manufacturer of car components in a cartel investigation.
    • Representing a Taiwanese manufacturer of optical disk drives in a cartel investigation.
    • Representing a US Corporation in obtaining EU merger approval for the acquisition of a UK public company.
    • Representing a US corporation before the EU Commission in obtaining merger approval for the acquisition of a European chemical company.
    • Representing a Slovak Distillery before the European Court of Justice in a state aid appeal case.
    • Obtaining Commission approval for a state aid in the bio-ethanol market.
    • Representing a Brazilian company before the European Commission in a cartel investigation (refrigeration compressors).
    • Representing a European Banking Confederation in the Commission’s “Euro Exchange” cartel investigation.
    • Representing a major international conglomerate in a state aid investigation arising from the acquisition of a Bank in the Czech Republic.
    • Representing a Taiwanese company in the LCD screen cartel investigation.


    • Universiteit van Amsterdam, Mgr., 1982
    • The Honorable Society of King's Inns, Barrister at Law, 1982
    • Trinity College, J.D., 1981


    • Belgium, 2000
    • Ireland, 1982
    • England and Wales (barrister), 2003


    • English
    • French
    • Spanish
    • Recognized in The Legal 500 Europe, Middle East & Africa 2019 for Belgium – Competition: EU and Global
    • Recognized in Chambers Europe 2019 in: Belgium - Competition/European Law
    • Recommended in The Legal 500 Europe, Middle East & Africa 2016 in Competition – EU and global, Belgium
    • Recommended in Chambers Global 2016 for Competition/European Law in Belgium
    • Recommended in Chambers Europe 2015
    • Recognized in Chambers Global 2015 as a leading international expert on Competition/European Law, UK
    • Recommended in The Legal 500 EMEA 2015 
    • Recognized by Chambers Global 2014 as a leading individual for competition and European law in Belgium
    • “Sharp lawyer with crystal clear focus….” Chambers Global 2014
    • “Highly knowledgeable, practical, timely and efficient.” The Legal 500 Europe 2014
    • 2014 Cartel Lawyer of the Year Belgium, Corporate International
    • “Long experience of EU Competition law and is respected for his talent in cartel matters.” Chambers Global 2013
    • 2013 BTI Client Service All Star, BTI Consulting
    • “We have a relationship of partnership with him. He is absolutely available and provides answers in an efficient manner.” Chambers Europe 2012

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