Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, is very clear about the direction that European Union (EU) regulation on internet companies should take.

Strategy is based on 4 pillars: a Data Governance Act, a Digital Services Act, to be unveiled in early December and update the 2000 e-Commerce directive, a Digital Markets Act and the 2019 Cybersecurity Act, he told the AAPA at a virtual meeting on Friday, 13 November. With decades of experience running high tech companies including France Telecom (now Orange), Breton candidly acknowledges he is the man for the job.

He recently talked with Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and its parent company Alphabet, and reiterated his message: that internet companies are welcome in the EU, as long as they respect the regulations. For the future, that means no more cherrypicking, such as preferential tax regimes in countries such as Ireland and the Netherlands, he said.

Joe Biden’s election as US president “doesn’t change anything” to the perspective for the transatlantic partnership and alliance, he said. Democracy in the divided US, where power is shared between the House of Representatives and the Senate, is a bit like that in Brussels, where power is shared between the European Parliament and Council, which represents member States.

Breton has no qualms about Biden recruiting high tech experts to his team of advisors, as the EU itself has done in his case. The only proviso is that they have “zero links with their previous jobs.”

He tells companies “don’t send me your lobbies” that are even more numerous in Brussels than Washington. “I don’t need them. I say ‘just pick up the phone and call me’. My door is always open.” Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has taken up the opportunity “many times” to discuss fake news and other issues.

Breton says his technique is to explain rather than to lecture, and that he is not against any company or country. He has been “favourably impressed” by the involvement of Internet firms’ CEOs in tackling fake news. “Discussions with most of them have been very positive.” Anonymity of participants should be preserved, but compliance on what can or cannot be said or shown must be enforced.

This will be one of the tasks of a future joint European board that will bring together all the national regulators. Member States will select one of them to do the work in the face of data that doubles in volume every 18 months or so.

Pierre Tran’s article: