Who’s who in the digital world


1)   Andrus Ansip: Vice-president for the digital single market. Ansip will co-ordinate the commissioners’ work on all things digital. He is as close as the college gets to having a ‘digital native’.

2)   Günther Oettinger: Commissioner for the digital economy and society and in charge of the Commission’s department for communications networks, content and technology. Oettinger’s department gained considerable powers as part of Jean-Claude Juncker’s administrative reshuffle, including over the fight against counterfeiting and piracy, cybersecurity and copyright. Oettinger, who is far from a digital native, has strong and outspoken views on a number of digital issues, which are likely to clash with  some of his fellow commissioners.

3)   Vera Jourová: Jourová is responsible for negotiations on controversial data-protection rules. Her department also gained responsibility for consumer affairs, where the Commission co-ordinates website ‘sweeps’ or dawn raids conducted by consumer bodies. It also negotiated non-binding commitments from Apple and Google to respect consumer rules in the field of so-called ‘in-app purchases’ and will be looking for new opportunities to flex these muscles.

4)   Elżbieta Bieńkowska: Her portfolio lost several competencies to Oettinger and DG CONNECT. But Bieńkowska is still responsible for the creative industries, meaning that she will have a say
over copyright reform, and is the lead commissioner on many issues that affect the digital single market.

5)   Dimitris Avramopoulos: Avramopoulos shares competency over cyber-security matters with Günther Oettinger.

6)   Margrethe Vestager: Vestager is in charge of several antitrust investigations that affect the digital sector. They include an investigation into Google, which has been driven by around 20 official
complaints. The department for competition is also investigating licensing deals struck by US film studios with broadcasters, which could have a major impact on copyright rules. She will have the power of life or death over telecoms mergers. The state-aid aspect of Vestager’s portfolio gives the Commission oversight over public funds invested into the digital sector, while it is also investigating sweetheart tax deals struck by Amazon and Apple.

7)   Corina Creţu: Member state and regional authorities that want to use EU structural funds to invest in the digital sector will need Creţu’s approval. Indeed, increasing digital uptake is a stated aim of the regional development fund. For example, Brittany is getting more than €100 million to invest in broadband connections.

8)   Carlos Moedas: Moedas is in charge of Horizon 2020, an €80 billion fund to be invested in research and innovation projects in 2014-20. Normally handed out as grants, the Commission has promised to increase its leverage. Almost all of the projects funded are digital: from 3D-printed robots to using big data analyses to predict climate change; from using satellite technology to improve
maritime navigation.



1)     Berec: The body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications came into existence in January 2010. It gathers together national telecoms regulators and is meant to advise the European Commission on telecoms policy and help co-ordinate the actions of national regulators. However, it has been at odds with both the Commission and some of its members, in particular over regulated prices for telecoms incumbents.

2)     Article 29 Working Party: The group comprises national data-protection regulators and the European Commission. It has no binding powers. It is currently chaired by the French data
protection supervisor, the CNIL, and has been particularly active in the wake of the European Court of Justice ruling on the rightto be forgotten – see below – hauling insearch engines and issuing guidelines.

3)     European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS): The EDPS is responsible for ensuring that the European institutions and bodies respect the right to privacy when they process and develop new policies. The EDPS also monitors the processing of personal data within the EU administration. Peter Hustinx was succeeded as EDPS on 4  December by Giovanni Buttarelli, who had been assistant EDPS and who was Italy’s data-protection supervisor in 1997-2009.
The new assistant EDPS is Wojciech Wiewiórowski, who was Poland’s data-protection supervisor in 2010-14 and vice-chairman of the Article 29 working group (see above).

4)     The European Court of Justice: ECJ rulings have had a major impact on digital governance. In April it ruled that privacy rules require Google to delete certain search links where requested – leading to hundreds of thousands of requests. In the same month it ruled that EU law requiring telecoms operators to store telecoms data for the police breached human rights law. Another important ruling will come next year on the question of whether an Irish judge can examine whether Facebook is allowed to store personal data from the EU in the US under EU law.


1)     ICANN: A private entity, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers hands out domain-names, giving it a very visible role in running the internet. There is growing debate over whether other stakeholders will gain a greater say in this. Domain-name decisions are becoming increasingly controversial – witness the controversy over .vin, a domain coveted by the French.

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Source: European Voice

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