Margrethe Vestager

EXECUTIVE VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION

Greece 2022  I  Telecoms & IT  I  Viewpoint

_BIOGRAPHY A Danish politician and European Commissioner in the Von der Leyen Commission, she is currently serving as Executive Vice President of the European Commission for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age since December 2019 and European Commissioner for Competition since 2014. She is a member of the Danish Social Liberal Party, and of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party.

“WE SIMPLIFIED REGULATION AND WE MADE SURE THAT THE VARIOUS COGS IN THE ENTREPRENEURIAL ECOSYSTEM COOPERATED IN A MORE CONSTRUCTIVE WAY.”

TRANSITION TO A GREEN AND DIGITAL ECONOMY

 

This pandemic has proven to be an endurance test – more of a marathon than a sprint. But I am convinced that we can emerge from this test even stronger than before. I say we ‘can’ emerge stronger – as it is not a given. There are many important lessons from the crisis that we need to learn from.

 

The first lesson is about the importance of a resilient Single Market. Our Single Market is Europe’s best argument for a free, open and fair society. That is why we must continue to complete our Single Market in areas where barriers and gaps persist. Such as in services and energy, and through rigorous enforcement of competition policy. Completing the Single Market is also more of a marathon than a sprint. We must also ensure that it can work efficiently in times of crises.

 

Second, the pandemic showed how strategic dependencies make us vulnerable in times of crisis. So, as announced last year in our update of the Industry Strategy, in certain strategic areas of the economy, we must work to reduce our dependence for the critical things we rely on most. The third lesson is about accelerating the green and digital transitions. When this Commission’s mandate started, I remember voices who questioned us putting so much emphasis on digital policy.

 

No one is saying that today. The pandemic opened our eyes to the fact that change happens slowly, Until it happens all at once. And with sudden change, you either have the right policies in place or you risk getting swept away. On climate change, the story has been a little different. Even in 2019, there was broad understanding that we had to make changes. But not everyone believed in the political feasibility of that change. The pandemic showed we can make the change, when we really have to. Also the science on climate change is clear: we really have to!

 

With these lessons in mind, the focus of this year’s Industry Days will be on the dialogue and partnership Europe needs to strengthen resilience, to address strategic dependencies, and to support the green and digital transitions. To help build resilience, we will propose a new Single Market Emergency Instrument later this year, which can be activated to keep goods and services – and our people – moving, when the next crisis strikes.

 

The European Chips Act is another milestone. By strengthening our research capabilities, preserving security of supply and ensuring better cooperation along the supply chain, the Act will set out a feasible and sensible path for safeguarding Europe’s supply of semiconductors, which are like the veins and arteries of a modern economy. The co-creation phase is well underway. What’s important is that industry is in the lead, not policymakers. The transition to a green and digital economy is our shared ambition. But in a market economy, there is so much more that can be done by industry than by government.

 

DIGITAL MARKETS ACT

 

Enforcement actions are vital – we are watching them closely. But they are not enough. The fact is, we need new ways of safeguarding competition. With our Digital Markets Act, the EU is on the frontier of a whole new approach to regulating tech platforms. We are recognising the reality that a handful of key platforms now act as gatekeepers to a large part of the internet, including online markets. The Digital Markets Act will be there to remind them: with great power comes great responsibility. The Act will set out a list of do’s and don’t’s – things that apply only for the gatekeepers. While the details are being finalised, it will cover things like the use of business user’s data by gatekeepers, interoperability, switching, default settings, and self-preferencing, amongst others. Whether online businesses succeed or fail must be based on how good their ideas are. And on hard they work to serve the consumer. Not on the decisions of the gatekeeper.

 

We are still involved in discussions with co-legislators around the final text – that means the European Union’s Member States as well as the European Parliament. Progress is good, but there is still a lot of work to do. And we remain hopeful for an agreement very soon. Speed is important – these markets are always moving quickly. At the same time, we know we have to get this right. If we want to see real changes on the ground, the legislation must be clear and to the point. This is essential for its enforceability.

 

 

“THE DIGITAL MARKETS ACT WILL

BE THERE TO REMIND THEM:

WITH GREAT POWER COMES

GREAT RESPONSIBILITY.”

 

Effective enforcement, which includes the Commission having sufficient resources to do so, will be key to ensure compliance. Some gatekeepers may be tempted to play for time or try to circumvent the rules. Apple’s conduct in the Netherlands these days may be an example. As we understand it, Apple essentially prefers paying periodic fines, rather than comply with a decision of the Dutch Competition Authority on the terms and conditions for third parties to access its appstore. And that will also be one of the obligations included in the DMA.

 

Another important point is that these rules are objective and non-discriminatory. Both our credibility as an enforcer, as well as our commitment to free and open trade, demand that our actions apply equally, regardless of the origin of the companies concerned. Gatekeepers will be designated based on size and reach within the European market. That is also why it is important that we think globally. The EU has already led the way in areas like privacy rights. Consider the impact our General Data Protection Regulation has had – including California’s own Consumer Privacy Act. We want our work on the gatekeepers to inspire other jurisdictions in the same way. And we’re seeing it happen – for example in Japan, the UK, and Australia. In the US, several bills are progressing through Congress and Senate, and they share many features with our proposal. This is very encouraging because it means that there is a great degree of global consensus.

 

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

 

The impact of our digital legislation will depend as much on what happens outside the EU’s borders, as within. That is why we are so committed to the Trade and Technology Council, a renewed transatlantic partnership for finding common approaches to these issues. Specifically for competition policy, we have launched the new Technology Competition Policy Dialogue, which builds on our longstanding tradition of cooperation. The EU and the US may not end up with the exact same laws, but it is becoming increasingly clear that we share the same basic vision when it comes to developing digital policy to protect our citizens, and to keep our markets fair and open. This is true not just for the transatlantic relationship. The EU’s cooperation links are strong across the world – and they are paying dividends. For example, a few days ago, we launched the inaugural Africa-EU Competition Week, a platform for exchange and policy dialogue with our African partners. And we are keen to enhance our cooperation with other parts of the world too.