Vestager to combine digital and competition in new EC

Vestager to combine digital and competition in new European Commission

10 September 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Europe’s competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager will add responsibility for the digital market when the new European Commission takes office in November.

Ursula von der Leyen, who is president-elect of the new Commission, announced this morning that Danish politician Vestager (pictured) will continue to be responsible for competition in her new cabinet.

The European Commission is the executive arm of the European Union, currently with 28 members but with only 27 if the UK leaves on 31 October.

Vestager has been European commissioner for competition since 2014, where she has been a thorn in the side of large technology companies – and a champion of data privacy. Under her watch Google was fined €8 billion and Facebook more than €100 million. Apple had to pay back €14 billion to the Irish government when Vestager said the US company had received illegal state aid. In August she blocked a proposed network sharing agreement by O2 and T-Mobile in the Czech Republic, along with network infrastructure company Cetin.

Von der Leyen’s decision to combine these roles will come as a surprise. She said this morning: “Digitalisation has a huge impact on the way we live, work and communicate. In some fields, Europe has to catch up – like for business to consumers – while in others we are frontrunners – such as in business to business.”

She justified the merger of portfolios by adding: “We have to make our single market fit for the digital age, we need to make the most of artificial intelligence and big data, we have to improve on cybersecurity and we have to work hard for our technological sovereignty.”

Von der Leyen also announced that Sylvie Goulard of France will lead Commission work on industrial policy and promote the digital single market. She will also be responsible for the new directorate-general for defence industry and space.