DIGITALEUROPE's overview: Key Commissioners shaping Europe "fit for Digital the Age"
On 10 September, President-elect Ursula von der Leyen presented her slate of nominees for the next European Commission. The team has historic, near-perfect gender balance, with women holding 13 of 27 positions, and is structured around the headline ambitions von der Leyen was elected on by the European Parliament.
If confirmed by the European Parliament, Margrethe Vestager, as both Executive Vice President for Europe fit for the Digital Age and competition Commissioner, French ex-minister Sylvie Goulard, as internal market Commissioner, Věra Jourová (Vice-President for Values and Transparency), Didier Reynders (Commissioner for Justice), Mariya Gabriel (Commissioner for Innovation and Youth), Frans Timmermans (Executive Vice President for the European Green Deal), and Phil Hogan (Commissioner for Trade) are set to take charge of most of the new European Commission’s work on digital affairs.
I see these portfolios as a sign that Europe wants to lead in setting the scene on innovation and tech regulation. DIGITALEUROPE is fully ready to support this leadership, and we once again encourage you all to read our Manifesto “A Stronger Digital Europe 2025” and refresh our 22 measurable goals, as they are perfectly aligned with the priorities of the new Commission.
Europe needs to develop its capacities in key technologies and so recognize the overall globalized nature of the ICT industry and supply chain. We encourage a European trade policy that is open and resists all temptations to put up walls or adopt protectionist measures. Leveraging our international partnerships we should collectively build on our strengths, such as manufacturing, transport, public services or health, and only through open dialogue and close collaboration between public and private sector on digital investments and regulation, can we achieve “A Stronger Digital Europe”.
As part of her new role at the Commission, Executive Vice-President-Elect Vestager has also been given the responsibility to co-lead the work on a “new SME strategy” supporting small businesses, entrepreneurs and start-ups, notably by reducing the regulatory burden and enabling them to make the most of digitisation. As an organisation representing thousands of SMEs, we fully share this goal. Today, only 8% of SMEs trade across European boarders so we have a long way to go before we can claim a real European internal market.
Digital knows no borders, and European SMEs are to a high extent linked to the international market either as sub-suppliers to international players or with direct market access through global platforms and supply chains. This highlights the importance of the completion of the Digital Single Market and having an open global trade environment.
Sylvie Goulard has been allocated the internal market, but her portfolio is much broader: she will oversee the work of DG Connect, DG Grow and the new DG for Defence Industry and Space. In her new position, she will lead the Commission’s work on industrial policy and promote the Digital Single Market, and as such will deal with key digital issues such as artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. We will be very pleased to collaborate with Sylvie Goulard on these matters, and we look forward to completing the great work of the European Commission’s High Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence, where the guidelines for Trustworthy AI in the following 6-9 months are being tested and discussed with companies and institutions in Europe.
Executive Vice-President-designate for European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans has been assigned the ambitious task of transforming Europe into the world’s first climate-neutral continent. DIGITALEUROPE is convinced that digital technologies can make Europe’s big transformation happen, based on United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), circular economy and decarbonisation objectives. Digital plays a major role as a part of the solution, and through the use of new technologies we can save 26 billion ton of CO2 by 2025. We are looking forward to collaborating with Mr Timmermans on these matters.
DIGITALEUROPE has also sent its warm congratulations to Mariya Gabriel for her nomination as Commissioner for Innovation and Youth. We have appreciated great cooperation with Commissioner Gabriel for the past years and, upon the appointment for the new role, we will support her in defending an appropriate budget for Horizon Europe and the Digital Europe programmes.
As Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová will, among other things, work on countering disinformation, while preserving freedom of expression, freedom of the press and media pluralism. We also look forward to engaging with Didier Reynders, whose role will be critical for our industry, since he will continue to implement the General Data Protection Regulation, lead work on cross-border and online transactions and contribute to the legislation on a coordinated approach on the human and ethical implications of artificial intelligence. Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan will be in charge of strengthening Europe’s position as the world’s trading superpower and should give further impetus to WTO negotiations on e-commerce to harness the full potential of data, address barriers and enhance consumer and business trust.
These nominations and task distribution come as good news, but it also means that we have a lot of work ahead of us. We have already set up a policy outreach plan in order to engage with the Commissioners and their DGs in the coming weeks, taking actions similar to the outreach activities with the newly-elected MEPs we have been executing since June. We believe in the vision of a Europe fit for the digital era, and we look forward to contributing to its execution.