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September 10, 2014

The men directing Europe’s digital future

The brief: A digital single market, economy and society means taking on google.

By Vinod

European Commission President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker has proposed sweeping charges to the team in charge of the continent’s technological direction by expanding the team responsible for digital strategy.

Going forward, Europe’s digital agenda will be headed up by liberal former Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip and the current energy commissioner, centre-right German politician Günther Oettinger.

If approved and ratified by the European Parliament and European Council, Ansip will become the Commission’s vice-president in charge of the "Digital Single Market", with Oettinger taking over the new "Digital Economy and Society" portfolio, dealing with issues like net neutrality.

The two will replace current Commissioner Neelie Kroes, who has been widely praised for her work during the last few years, notably including the abolition of mobile roaming charges.

Oettinger has already marked his card by saying today that he intends to look at limiting Google’s market power by working to ensure that the search engine giant’s services preserve neutrality and objectivity.

He also said that EU competition policy needed to open up to suggestions from industry, as European telecoms companies tended to be at the lower end of the global spectrum.

This will go down well with Juncker, who called for "more ambition" in the ongoing reform of telecom rules during his announcement of the new team, aiming for a harmonised approach to radio spectrum and modernised copyright rules during the first part of the EC mandate.

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Ansip, who led his country from 2005 to 2014, will be responsible for overseeing technological issues that various departments are dealing with, from spectrum allocation and competition law to copyright (now under Oettinger’s care), skills development and data protection.


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