Margrethe Vestager Appointed to Deal with EU Digital Policy

In recent years, the 51-year-old Danish woman, who was once called the “worst politician of Denmark”, has become perhaps the most famous European Commissioner. Apart from that, she brought fame to high-profile investigations against technology giants such as Google, Apple and Facebook. Soon, Ms. Vestager’s position in this area will only be strengthened: in the new composition of the European Commission, which will begin work in November, she has received the post of vice-president, dealing with digital technologies and competition.

In 2014, when Margrethe Vestager was appointed European Commissioner for Competition, she was little known outside Denmark. The situation changed pretty quickly, when she began to pursue a much more decisive policy to combat dominance of technology giants.

In January 2016, Margrethe Vestager met with Apple CEO Tim Cook to discuss the company’s alleged conspiring with the Irish authorities to lower tax deductions (in some years, the tax in Europe was amounting to only 0.05% of the corporation’s revenue). According to the media, during the meeting, Cook constantly interrupted her, tried to read corporate taxation notations, and even raised his voice. Margrethe Vestager spoke at the meeting about “some of the rich and powerful” that take the public for fools when it comes to taxes. Seven months later, the European Commission fined Apple a record € 13 billion for tax privileges in Ireland. Tim Cook called this decision “absolute political nonsense”; both the American and Irish authorities joined in criticizing it.

Margrethe Vestager subsequently spoke about Apple subsidiaries in Ireland: “There is no reasonable justification for how some of these companies are created… It does not serve the company’s goals, it serves the purpose of tax evasion.”

Many doubted the validity of huge fines, compliance of the decisions with European antitrust laws and motivation of Ms. Vestager herself. For example, The Economist magazine suggested that her decisions were dictated only by the desire to make a successful career. She has been criticized from various directions, starting from representatives of the Donald Trump administration and Republicans in Congress to leaders of technology giants and the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal.

Others, including some of her opponents, note that she has achieved something unprecedented: she managed to arouse some admiration for the work of such a routine and criticized for bureaucracy body as the European Commission, and showed that such a seemingly boring sphere like can attract the public attention.


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