Receive free European Commission updates

The European Commission has appointed Belgium’s Didier Reynders as the EU’s competition chief, while incumbent commissioner Margrethe Vestager takes a leave of absence to run for the top job at the European Investment Bank.

Reynders, the current justice commissioner, will take on what is one of Brussels’ most powerful roles on a temporary basis during Vestager’s campaigning, the commission said on Tuesday, adding that he would report directly to president Ursula von der Leyen.

Like Vestager, a Danish former economy minister who became one of Brussels’ most prominent figures, Reynders also belongs to Renew Europe. The centrist liberal group’s members include the French president Emmanuel Macron.

As competition commissioner, Reynders will have a pivotal role in approving Europe’s biggest proposed mergers. The commission has intensified scrutiny of the tech sector, recently blocking Illumina’s acquisition of cancer screening company Grail and preparing to veto Booking’s proposed purchase of travel group Etraveli.

Reynders’ responsibilities will also extend to market abuse cases — such as open investigations into Spotify and Meta — and the policing of state aid across the EU. This includes making recommendations on individual cases as well as any revisions to rules curbing public support to companies.

“I will continue to ensure that EU competition policy and rules are vigorously enforced,” Reynders wrote on social media platform X, adding that he wished Vestager “a lot of success in your candidacy for the EIB”.

Vestager will take unpaid leave from the commission, allowing her to potentially return to her old role in Brussels if her application for the top job at the EIB is unsuccessful.

A veteran of Belgian politics, Reynders has played a prominent role in the commission’s continuing tussle with Poland and Hungary over the two countries’ alleged breaches of EU rules governing the rule of law. He has also taken a tough line regarding Warsaw’s new tribunal to investigate alleged Russian influence, which Brussels fears could be used as a political tool.

Vestager’s other responsibility, for coordinating the EU’s overall digital strategy, will be temporarily reassigned to commissioner Vera Jourová, the commission said.

Vestager’s bid to run the EIB, the EU’s lending arm, is set to be decided by EU finance ministers in the next few weeks. The winner of the contest will decide the fate of tens of billions of euros of investment and determine the future strategy of a critical element of the continent’s green transition.

Spanish economy minister Nadia Calviño is widely seen by EU diplomats as the frontrunner for the top job at the Luxembourg-based bank, which is tasked with boosting the EU’s influence on economic growth. She is well known to her fellow finance ministers and is expected to have a good chance of securing support from big member states including France.

Calviño, a former director-general of the European Commission’s budget department, will also have the advantage of chairing the meeting of finance ministers next month in Santiago de Compostela because of Spain’s current rotating presidency of the Council of the EU.

Vestager was initially a favourite for the role but her chances of securing the appointment were set back by the controversy over her appointment of an American to be the EU’s chief economist, which Macron successfully overturned.

The EIB, which is the world’s largest multilateral lender with a balance sheet of about €550bn, has stepped up its financing of climate-friendly investments in recent years. It is also expected to play an oversized role in helping fund Ukraine’s postwar reconstruction.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *