With his gray hair and gray suits, Mario Monti looks the epitome of a Brussels bureaucrat. But appearances deceive. The 56-year-old European Competition Commissioner, a former economics professor, is fighting fiercely to rid Europe's single market of cartels, potential monopolies, and subsidized companies.
Since taking office last September, Monti has fined shippers for operating a cartel and blocked Volvo's bid to acquire truckmaker Scania. Now, he is insisting that Germany's state governments stop guaranteeing the debt of the Landesbanken--the state-dominated regional banks. "State aid distorts the market," Monti says. Politicians are already growling over Monti's moves, but the ex-academic is paying no heed. His dedication is bad news for anyone betting on European subsidies.