One of the most contentious and high-profile aspects of European Community competition law and policy has been the regulation of what may be described as serious antitrust violations, typically involving large and powerful corporate producers and traders operating across Europe, if not also in awider international context. Such 'hard core' cartels characteristically engage in practices such as price fixing, bid rigging, market sharing and limiting production in order to ensure 'market stability' and maintain and increase profits. There is little doubt now in terms of competition theory andpolicy at both international and national levels about the damaging effect of such trading practices on public and consumer interests, and such cartels have been increasingly strongly condemned in the legal process of regulating and protecting competition. Indeed, a number of legal systems are nowfollowing the American lead in criminalizing such activity. This may therefore be seen as the 'hard end' of the enforcement of competition policy, requiring more confrontational and aggressive methods of regulation, yet also presenting considerable challenges to effective enforcement on account ofthe economic power, sophistication and determination of the typical participants in such cartels.The focus of this study is a critical evaluation of the way in which European-level regulation has evolved to deal with the problem of anti-competitive cartels. It traces the historical development of cartel regulation in Europe, comparing the pragmatic and empirical approach traditional in Europewith the more dogmatic and uncompromising American policy on cartels and asks whether a fully-fledged criminal proceeding (with its attendant level of legal safeguards) is the most appropriate approach to legal regulation .