State of Play: what are the latest developments in the European Commission?


Although originally planned to start the new term on 1 November, the new European Commission is now expected not to take office before 1 December following the rejection by MEPs of three Commissioners-designate, Sylvie Goulard (France), Rovana Plumb (Romania) and László Trócsányi (Hungary). The delay means that the Commission of outgoing President Jean-Claude Juncker will stay in charge at least one month longer than planned.

President-elect Ursula von der Leyen’s new European Commission is currently missing three Commissioners. Relevant for the e-Commerce sector was the rejection of Sylvie Goulard as Commissioner for the Internal Market. She would have been in charge of key files such as the review of the 2000 e-Commerce Directive. Hungary and Romania have already proposed new candidates, but these have not yet been accepted by President-elect Von der Leyen. France has yet to appoint new nominees. New candidates will have to undergo an examination of their financial interests by the EP JURI Committee and a confirmation hearing as well as written questions by MEPs.

Digital Policy: what can we expect?

Regardless of the vacant position for Commissioner for the Internal Market, the Digital Agenda of the next European Commission is slowly taking shape, between early leaks from the various DG and last month’s hearings. Here are a few key files to keep an eye on in this new mandate. The new Digital Services Act, which will include a revision of the 2000 e-Commerce Directive, has been high on the agenda of the tech sector, and is clearly high on the Commission’s agenda as well. The hearings did not reveal too much about the Commission’s plans. However, it is already clear that the new act will “upgrade” the existing liability rules for platforms and will try to find the right balance to avoid hindering a growing European platform economy. Commissioner Jourová added to the discussion by focusing on the fight against illegal content and disinformation and the responsibility of platforms.

Regarding Artificial Intelligence, VP Vestager highlighted what should be the EU’s approach to AI, and Commissioner Reynders argued in favor of a very horizontal, “ethics-by-design” approach. Vestager also confirmed that something will come in the first 100 days, without concretely saying what will come and in which form – since a legislative proposal seems relatively improbable under such deadline.

Furthermore, access to data was briefly mentioned, with Vestager highlighting that the EU might need to regulate the way that companies collect, use and share data, so it can benefit the entire society. Digital tax also remains on the agenda, with Commissioner Gentiloni and Vestager supporting an international solution, but not excluding a European one if an agreement cannot be reached.

On competition, Vestager highlighted that competition rules needed to adapt to digitalization, especially with the development of the platform economy and technologies such as AI, where access to data is crucial. Vestager also declared, after her hearing, that “she will move beyond fines in her second term […] to look at other measures to ensure a fair playing field”. Remaining on the topic of Big Tech, Valdis Dombrovskis also announced that the Commission was looking into Facebook’s Libra, and that a legislative proposal on such crypto assets was to be expected.

Beyond policy, the hearings confirmed that the European Commission will have to deal with a fragmented and vocal European Parliament, especially on digital matters.