The powerful Margrethe Vestager, terror of Google and other GAFA, expected at the turn
Gafa’s Beast, Denmark’s Margrethe Vestager has taken the lead in the new European Commission: she keeps the Competition and recovers the Digital, two hot issues closely watched by Washington, which suggests a difficult mission .
Arriving at the end of 2014 in Brussels, Mrs. Vestager, former Minister of Finance of a small European country, quickly made a name for herself on the international scene thanks to her intransigence with regard to the giants of Silicon Valley.
Responsible for five years of one of the most important portfolios of the European Commission, that of competition, it has unlike many of its colleagues a real power of sanctions.
She sued several US giants: summoned Apple in the summer of 2016 to repay 13 billion euros of tax arrears to Ireland and Google repeatedly fined for abuse of dominant position for an amount of 8 billion in total.
US President Donald Trump, who dubbed her the “Tax Lady of the EU”, accused her of hating her country, which she has always defended.
His flush and ease helped him to become a star of the European executive, which explains his promotion.
Now executive vice-president of the European Commission, she has kept the competition in his pocket (to the surprise, because an unwritten rule that a commissioner can not keep the same portfolio twice) while now having a mission additional: adapting Europe to the digital age.
Lawyers, lobbyists and experts are already warning that his mandate will not be easy: his enemies, who are not only in Washington, are ready to fight, especially in European justice.
The EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg is due to look into the Apple case next week, which has appealed jointly with Ireland for the Commissioner’s decision.
But in this emblematic case, nothing is won. The Luxembourg Court has already ruled on several decisions in Brussels.
“Mrs Vestager has often said that she would like to keep her job until her main cases are judged and she has done so,” says Alfonso Lamadrid, an expert in competition law at the Garrigues law firm in Brussels.
“Their result could be decisive for evaluating the Vestager years,” adds Lamadrid, who works for technology companies at war with the Commission.
Another Brussels-based lawyer who fought against Google, Thomas Vinje, remarks, “If the Commission loses these cases, it could very likely affect its willingness to open other cases.”
“In any case, she will have to prepare for possible defeats. Their impact will depend on the arguments of the Court, “notes one of his colleagues, Philippe Blanchard, a partner at the Brunswick Group consulting firm in Brussels.
The Danish is also eagerly awaited on the reform of the rules of competition, strongly demanded by Paris and Berlin after the veto of Vestager to the merger in the rail of the German Siemens with the French Alstom.
“She is going to have to be a fine politician: she has already said that a thorough reform is not necessary and has not been exposed much,” said Mr. Blanchard, who advised Siemens and Alstom on their merger.
In an interview with AFP on Tuesday, Ms Vestager said she wanted to “listen very carefully to different opinions” before changing all the rules.
He added: “It’s very important to keep in mind the benefits of competition because it keeps you innovative. It’s the competition that creates the champions we need. ”
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