Juncker’s new European Commission: Will the digital economy benefit?


As Jean-Claude Juncker announced his new College of Commissioners last week, he has made it clear that he wants his Commission to have a less centralized power structure. Moreover, the President can deal directly with the vice-presidents and get things done faster. Vice-presidents will have the task of leading project teams, which could lead to better coordinated policy. Mr. Juncker reiterated that we can generate up to €250 billion of additional growth in Europe by 2019 by creating a digital single market, and the institutional structure he proposes could facilitate the integrated approach on policy   Ecommerce Europe has been advocating for.

Possible boost for the Digital Single Market

One of the main policy priorities Ecommerce Europe focuses on is completion of the Digital Single Market. Cross-border e-commerce can only flourish in a true Digital Single Market where barriers to cross-border trade have been removed. Juncker’s integrated approach could mean the process of completing the Digital Single Market will be sped up rapidly.

Former Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip will be Vice-President for the Digital Single Market and “steering” the Commissioners in charge of digital issues: Current Energy Commissioner, Günther Oettinger, will be Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, and Oettinger will also be given charge of copyright issues. The ongoing Data Protection Regulation reform will fall to Věra Jourová of the Czech Republic, as Justice, Consumers & Gender Equality Commissioner. The Danish liberal Margrethe Vestager will have to untangle the Google case as Competition Commissioner now that it is likely that outgoing Commissioner Joaquin Almunia does not resolve it before the end of October. Vice-President Ansip is likely to welcome his new position steering this Commissioners towards completing the Digital Single Market as he has put eServices at the top of Estonia’s agenda – the country’s eSignature and eID scheme is a world leader.

Reducing red tape with the “First Vice-President”

One of the other novelties of the new Commission will be the “First Vice-President”, Frans Timmermans, currently Dutch foreign minister. “Timmermans will be my right hand, more than just a colleague, he will be my deputy if I’m unable to be physically or mentally present, for instance in the college of commissioners,” Juncker said. Timmermans, in charge of “better regulation”, will act as a filter for new legislation proposed by his colleagues, making sure that the EU Commission doesn’t get lost in details and focuses on “big things”. Ecommerce Europe applauds the appointment of this post, as it can significantly reduce red tape for businesses expanding their businesses cross-border.

Next steps

The nominees will now appear before the European Parliament’s legislative committees in the coming weeks before MEPs take the final vote on whether to appoint the new Commission. While it is not possible for the European Parliament to vote against just one Commissioner, it is not likely that they will dismiss the entire College. However, if former hearings are an indication the new Commissioners should expect some critical scrutiny from the political groups. Ecommerce Europe will monitor the hearings closely and update its members accordingly on the next steps to be taken.