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Margrethe Vestager
Vestager at the European Parliament hearings in October 2019
Executive Vice President of the European Commission for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age
Assumed office
1 December 2019
PresidentUrsula von der Leyen
Preceded byOffice established[a]
European Commissioner for Competition
Assumed office
1 November 2014
PresidentJean-Claude Juncker
Ursula von der Leyen
Preceded byJoaquín Almunia
Minister of the Economy and Interior
In office
3 October 2011 – 2 September 2014
Prime MinisterHelle Thorning-Schmidt
Preceded byBrian Mikkelsen (Economy)
Bertel Haarder (Interior)
Succeeded byMorten Østergaard
Leader of the Social Liberal Party
In office
15 June 2007 – 2 September 2014
Preceded byMarianne Jelved
Succeeded byMorten Østergaard
Minister of Education
In office
23 March 1998 – 27 November 2001
Prime MinisterPoul Nyrup Rasmussen
Preceded byOle Vig Jensen
Succeeded byUlla Tørnæs
Minister of Ecclesiastical Affairs
In office
23 March 1998 – 21 December 2000
Prime MinisterPoul Nyrup Rasmussen
Preceded byOle Vig Jensen
Succeeded byJohannes Lebech
Personal details
Born (1968-04-13) 13 April 1968 (age 53)
Glostrup, Denmark
Political partySocial Liberal Party
Other political
affiliations
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party
Spouse(s)
Thomas Jensen
(m. 1994)
Children3
EducationUniversity of Copenhagen
Headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels (Berlaymont building)
Headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels (Berlaymont building)

Margrethe Vestager (Danish pronunciation: [mɑˈkʁeˀtə ˈvestˌɛˀjɐ]; born 13 April 1968) is a Danish politician and European Commissioner in the Von der Leyen Commission, currently serving as Executive Vice President of the European Commission for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age since December 2019[1] and European Commissioner for Competition since 2014. Vestager is a member of the Danish Social Liberal Party, and of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (ALDE) on the European level.

Prior to joining the European Commission, she served in the Danish governments of Poul Nyrup Rasmussen as Minister for Ecclesiastical Affairs from 1998 to 2000 and Minister of Education from 1998 to 2001. She was leader of the Social Liberals from 2007 to 2014, and served as Minister of Economic Affairs and the Interior under Helle Thorning-Schmidt from 2011 to 2014.

Following the 2014 European Parliament election, Vestager was nominated as Denmark's European Commissioner in the Juncker Commission,[2] becoming Commissioner for Competition.[3] In the 2019 European Parliament election, she was one of ALDE's seven lead candidates.[4] After the election, Vestager was nominated as the Renew Europe group's candidate for President of the European Commission.[5] After the election of the Ursula von der Leyen as President, Vestager was re-nominated as Denmark's Commissioner. She retained her Competition portfolio while also becoming one of the Commission's three Executive Vice Presidents, with responsibility for "A Europe Fit for the Digital Age".[6]

In her capacity as Commissioner for Competition, Vestager has gained international recognition for investigating, fining, or bringing lawsuits against major multinational companies including Google,[7] Apple Inc.,[8] Amazon,[9] Facebook, Qualcomm,[10] and Gazprom.[11][12] She has been described as "the rich world's most powerful trustbuster"[13] and "the world's most famous regulator".[10]

Early life and education

Vestager was born in Glostrup, Zealand, a daughter of Lutheran ministers Hans Vestager and Bodil Tybjerg.[13][14] She matriculated from Varde Upper Secondary school in 1986. She studied at the University of Copenhagen, graduating in 1993 with a degree in Economics.[15] Vestager speaks Danish, English and some French.[12]

Political career

Vestager has been a professional politician since the age of 21, when she was appointed to the central board and executive committee of the SLP and its European Affairs Committee, and shortly afterwards as National Chairwoman of the Party.[citation needed]

In 2001, Vestager was elected to the Danish Parliament, becoming Chairwoman of its Parliamentary Group in 2007. She was appointed Minister of Education and Ecclesiastical Affairs in 1998.[citation needed]

On 15 June 2007 Vestager secured election as her Party's parliamentary group leader in the Folketing, replacing Marianne Jelved.[14] When Denmark's Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen called an early election in 2011 after failing to secure majority lawmaker backing for his economic stimulus package, Vestager's Social Liberals and the Conservative People's Party formed a political alliance, pledging to work together no matter which political bloc would win the election.[16]

Minister for Economic and Interior Affairs of Denmark, 2011–2014

From 2011 until 2014 Vestager served as Minister for Economic and Interior Affairs in the three-party Social Democrat-led coalition government of Helle Thorning-Schmidt. Having forced through deep cuts in unemployment benefits of Denmark's generous social welfare system after the country's economy narrowly escaped recession in 2012,[17] she was at one point considered by Danish media and pollsters as the most powerful person in government, even above Thorning-Schmidt.[18]

In her time in office, chaired the meetings of economic and finance ministers of the European Union (ECOFIN) during Denmark's presidency of the Council of Ministers in 2012.[19] In this capacity, she announced that the European Union would cede two of its seats on the board of the International Monetary Fund to emerging economies under a new power-sharing scheme for international financial institutions.[20] She also worked closely with Jean-Claude Juncker to salvage Europe's financial sector and forge a European Banking Union.[21]

Between 2011 and 2014, Vestager led Denmark's campaign against Basel III liquidity rules, arguing in favor of allowing banks to use 75 percent more in covered bonds to fill liquidity buffers than allowed under Basel III rules; at the time Denmark's $550 billion mortgage-backed covered bond market, part of the country's two-century-old mortgage system,[22] was the world's largest per capita.[23] In 2013 she ruled out slowing down steps toward stricter requirements for systemically important lenders and reiterated her stance that banks won't get tax breaks to help them through the transition caused by regulatory reform.[24]

In May 2014, Vestager presented a growth package designed to drag Denmark's economy – at the time Scandinavia's weakest – out of its crisis, raising the country's structural output by 6 billion kroner ($1.1 billion) and cut costs for companies by 4 billion kroner in 2020 through 89 measures to improve the business climate and boost employment.[25]

European Commissioner for Competition, 2014–2019

On 31 August 2014, Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt nominated Vestager as Denmark's EU Commissioner in the Juncker Commission.[2] Despite her repeated denials of campaigning for the Environment portfolio,[26][27] eventually she was designated the Competition dossier in the Juncker Commission.[3] On 3 October 2014, she won the European Parliament's backing following her confirmation hearing.[28][29]

In her confirmation hearings, Vestager said she favored settlement of cases before they come to a final executive judgment, for reduced fines or negotiated concessions from the companies.[30]

Like her predecessor, Joaquín Almunia, Vestager has since been focusing on state aid cases.[citation needed] Within a few months in the office, she brought antitrust charges against Google; Almunia had initially opened the investigation into Google in 2010, and had reached a settlement deal with Google by 2014 but was unable to convince the European Commission to accept it before his term ended. Vestager inherited Almunia's case but has shown greater desire to continue pursuing Google/Alphabet over the alleged antitrust violations.[15] Also, she initiated investigations into the tax affairs of Fiat, Starbucks, Amazon.com and Apple Inc. under competition rules.[12] In 2014, she launched proceedings against Gazprom, one of Europe's main gas suppliers, over allegations of breaching EU antitrust rules by putting in place artificial barriers to trade with eight European countries: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria.[11]

In January 2015, Vestager ordered Cyprus Airways to pay back over 65 million euros in illegal state aid received in 2012 and 2013 as part of a restructuring package; as a consequence, Cyprus suspended operations at its flag carrier resulting in 550 job losses and reduced competition.[31][32]

In August 2016, after a two–year investigation, Vestager announced Apple Inc. received illegal tax benefits from Ireland. The Commission ordered Apple to pay a fine of €13 billion, plus interest, in unpaid Irish taxes for 2004–2014;[33] the largest tax fine in history.[8] In July 2020, the European General Court struck down the decision as illegal, ruling in favor of Apple.

As a result of the EU investigation, Apple agreed to re-structure out of its 2004–2014 Irish BEPS tool, the Double Irish in Q1 2015; Apple's replacement Irish BEPS tool, the CAIA arrangement caused Irish 2015 GDP to rise by 34.4 per cent,[34] and was labelled Leprechaun economics by Nobel Prize-winning economist, Paul Krugman in July 2016.[35][36]

In July 2017, a fine of $2.7 billion against Alphabet (formerly Google) was levied based on the European Commission claim that Google breached antitrust rules. This fine was later appealed.[7]

In October 2017, Vestager ordered Amazon to pay €250 million of back taxes,[9] and in January 2018, the EU Commission fined Qualcomm €997 million for allegedly abusing its market dominance on LTE baseband chipsets.[37] In July 2018, she fined Alphabet (Google) €4.3 billion for entrenching its dominance in internet search by illegally tying together their service and other mobile apps with Android. On 22 January 2019 she fined Mastercard €570 million for preventing European retailers from shopping around for better payment terms.[38] In March 2019, Vestager ordered Google to pay a fine €1.49 billion for abusive practices in online advertising.[39][10] Vestager's actions against American companies as competition commissioner received criticism from US President Donald Trump (who also dubbed her as the EU's "Tax Lady"),[40] stating "She hates the United States, perhaps worse than any person I’ve ever met."[41]

In February 2019, Vestager blocked a merger between the two large European rail companies Siemens and Alstom due to serious competition concerns, despite the fact that both the German and French governments had supported the merger.[42]

Executive Vice President of the European Commission for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age, 2019–present

Following the 2019 European Parliament election, Vestager was proposed as President of the European Commission.[5] Vestager’s campaign for the presidency of the European Commission encountered resistance in France, following her decision to veto the merger between Alstom and Siemens.[43] The prohibition of the merger between two large European industrial companies angered the French president Emmanuel Macron and stood in the way of Vestager’s bid for the presidency of the European Commission.[44] In June 2019, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen proposed that Vestager continue as Denmark's Commissioner for another five years.[45] While, initially thought to become First Vice-President,[46] Ursula von der Leyen has since proposed that Vestager, Frans Timmermans and Valdis Dombrovskis all serve as Executive Vice-Presidents of the Commission with Vestager having responsibility for a "Europe fit for the Digital Age". In her role as Vice-President of the European Commission, Vestager had public and private disagreements with Commissioner Thierry Breton, the Frenchman in charge of a major overhaul of the digital rules in the European Union.[47]

Other activities

Corporate boards

Non-profit organizations

Recognition

Political positions

In 2013, Vestager held that “[in] our experience it’s impossible to pursue Danish interests without being close to the core of Europe. You don’t have influence or produce results if you’re standing on the sideline.”[52]

Personal life

Vestager's husband is a gymnasium maths-and-philosophy teacher. They have three daughters, Maria, Rebecca, and Ella. Vestager served as an inspiration for the main character in Borgen, who tries to juggle family life and politics.[12]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Mariya Gabriel as Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society and Maroš Šefčovič as Acting European Commissioner for Digital Single Market

References

  1. ^ "Margrethe Vestager". European Commission. 2019-11-19. Retrieved 2019-12-08.
  2. ^ a b "Vestager træder ud af regeringen og bliver EU-kommissær" (in Danish). Danmarks Radio. 31 August 2014.
  3. ^ a b "The new structure of the Juncker Commission". Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  4. ^ "Leading liberals join EU election fray". Politico. 19 March 2019.
  5. ^ a b "EU Commission boss: Who will replace Jean-Claude Juncker?". BBC News. BBC. 2 July 2019. Retrieved 4 July 2019.
  6. ^ "Next European Commission: List in full". POLITICO. 2019-09-10. Retrieved 2019-09-10.
  7. ^ a b "European Commission fines Google $2.7B in antitrust ruling".
  8. ^ a b Foroohar, Rana (August 30, 2016). "Apple vs. the E.U. Is the Biggest Tax Battle in History". TIME.com. Retrieved 2016-11-14.
  9. ^ a b "After a bite of Apple, Margrethe Vestager targets another tech giant". The Economist. 4 October 2017.
  10. ^ a b c Volpicelli, Gian (29 May 2019). "Margrethe Vestager fined Google and Apple billions, now she may lead Europe". Wired. Archived from the original on 31 May 2019. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  11. ^ a b "European Commission - PRESS RELEASES - Press release - Statement by Commissioner Vestager on sending a Statement of Objections to Gazprom". europa.eu.
  12. ^ a b c d Danny Hakim (April 15, 2015), The Danish Politician Who Accused Google of Antitrust Violations New York Times.
  13. ^ a b "Is Margrethe Vestager championing consumers or her political career". The Economist. 14 September 2017.
  14. ^ a b Biography on the website of the Danish Parliament (Folketinget)
  15. ^ a b Camesasca, Peter; Cole, Miranda; Geradin, Damien; Ysewyn, Johan (10 September 2014). "New EU Competition Commissioner--Margrethe Vestager". The National Law Review. Covington & Burling LLP. Retrieved 15 September 2014.
  16. ^ Josiane Kremer (August 28, 2011), Danish Conservatives, Social Liberals Form Pact, Berlingske Says Bloomberg Business.
  17. ^ Mette Fraende and Erik Matzen (December 13, 2012), Denmark sees painful recovery as economy stalls Reuters.
  18. ^ Foo Yun Chee and Julia Fioretti (September 10, 2014), Danish reformer gets EU antitrust stick; German to police the Internet Reuters.
  19. ^ Cynthia Kroet (August 31, 2014), Denmark nominates Vestager as European commissioner European Voice.
  20. ^ EU to cut IMF board seats in autumn- EU's Vestager Reuters, April 20, 2012.
  21. ^ Gaspard Sebag, Peter Levring and Aoife White (September 10, 2014), Denmark’s Vestager to Replace EU Antitrust Chief Almunia Bloomberg News.
  22. ^ Frances Schwartzkopff (December 6, 2013), Soros Venture Urges Denmark to Ignore EBA Covered Bond Plan Bloomberg Business.
  23. ^ Frances Schwartzkopff, Jim Brunsden and Peter Levring (June 13, 2014), Basel’s Liquidity Rules Ignored as EU Sides With Denmark Bloomberg Business.
  24. ^ Peter Levring (May 28, 2013), Banks Rebuked for Spin Tactics as Denmark Slams Sifi Pleas Bloomberg Business.
  25. ^ Peter Levring (May 8, 2014), Danish Government Unveils Plan to Help Economy Exit Crisis Bloomberg Business.
  26. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: The Juncker team revealed". Retrieved 4 September 2014.
  27. ^ "Vestager afviser rygter: Jeg skal ikke være miljøkommissær". Retrieved 4 September 2014.
  28. ^ Robin Emmott (October 3, 2014), Denmark's Vestager wins backing as new EU antitrust head Reuters.
  29. ^ Paul Taylor (October 5, 2014), Juncker's team likely to survive EU power struggle Reuters.
  30. ^ Foo Yun Chee and Alastair Macdonald (September 23, 2014), New EU antitrust head not swayed by anti-Americanism, bullies Reuters.
  31. ^ Foo Yun Chee and Alastair Macdonald (January 9, 2015), Cyprus Airways closed down after EU state aid ruling Reuters.
  32. ^ Times of Malta (January 10, 2015), Cyprus Airways closed down after EU state aid ruling Times of Malta.
  33. ^ "EU Commission Decision on State Aid by Ireland to Apple" (PDF). Apple (Ireland). 30 August 2016. Retrieved 2016-11-14.
  34. ^ Patrick Syth, European Editor (13 September 2019). "Explainer: Apple's €13bn tax appeal has huge implications". Irish Times. Retrieved 15 October 2019. Apple has changed its own corporate structure, restructured a new Irish Beps tool called Capital Allowances for Intangible Assets (CAIA), also nicknamed the “Green Jersey”. The bookkeeping change was so significant that it contributed to the extraordinary one-off revision in Irish GDP for 2015 by 26 per cent (later revised to 34.4 per cent).
  35. ^ Mark Deen; Dara Doyle (13 July 2016). ""Leprechaun Economics" Earn Ireland Ridicule, $443 Million Bill". Bloomberg News. Archived from the original on 28 April 2019. Retrieved 27 April 2019.
  36. ^ Colm Kelpie (13 July 2016). "'Leprechaun economics' - Ireland's 26pc growth spurt laughed off as 'farcical'". Irish Independent. Archived from the original on 14 June 2018. Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  37. ^ Gibbs, Samuel (24 January 2018). "Qualcomm fined €997m by EU for paying Apple to exclusively use its chips". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  38. ^ "EU fines Mastercard more than half a billion euros | DW | 22.01.2019". DW.COM.
  39. ^ "Statement by Commissioner Vestager on Commission decision to fine Google € 1.49 billion for abusive practices in online advertising". European Commission. Brussels. 20 March 2019. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  40. ^ Amaro, Silvia (10 September 2019). "Margrethe Vestager is set to remain EU competition chief for another five years". www.cnbc.com. CNBC.
  41. ^ Dallison, Paul (26 June 2019). "Trump: 'Europe treats us worse than China'". Politico. Retrieved 4 July 2019.
  42. ^ Amaro, Silvia (February 6, 2019). "EU blocks Alstom-Siemens rail merger due to 'serious competition concerns'". CNBC. Retrieved December 27, 2020. Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  43. ^ Robert, Aline (April 10, 2019). "Vestager campaigns on hostile French territory". EURACTIV. Retrieved December 27, 2020. Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  44. ^ Toplensky, Rochelle; Barker, Alex; Milne, Richard (February 14, 2019). "Margrethe Vestager's hopes of top EU role hit by rail deal veto". Financial Times. Retrieved December 27, 2020. Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  45. ^ Paul Dallison (June 26, 2019), New Danish PM wants Vestager to stay as commissioner Politico Europe.
  46. ^ Herschend, Sofie Synnøve; Ritzau (10 July 2019). "Vestager bliver ikke første næstformand, siger Ursula von der Leyen". TV2 Nyheder (in Danish). TV2. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  47. ^ Larger, Thibault; Scott, Mark; Kayali, Laura (December 14, 2019). "Inside the EU's divisions on how to go after Big Tech". Politico. Retrieved December 27, 2020. Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  48. ^ a b c d e Margrethe Vestager: Declaration of interests Archived 2015-04-18 at the Wayback Machine European Commission.
  49. ^ Margarethe Vestager: Declaration of interests Archived 2015-04-18 at the Wayback Machine European Commission.
  50. ^ Members European Council on Foreign Relations.
  51. ^ "Patron Saint's Day 2017: interviews with the new honorary doctors".
  52. ^ Peter Levring (January 23, 2013), U.K. Must ‘Walk Path Alone’ on EU Vote, Denmark Says Bloomberg Business.

Media related to Margrethe Vestager at Wikimedia Commons

Party political offices
Preceded by
Grethe Erichsen
Chair of the Social Liberal Party
1993–1997
Succeeded by
Johannes Lebech
Preceded by
Marianne Jelved
Leader of the Social Liberal Party in the Folketing
2007–2011
Succeeded by
Marianne Jelved
Leader of the Social Liberal Party
2007–2014
Succeeded by
Morten Østergaard
Political offices
Preceded by
Ole Vig Jensen
Minister of Ecclesiastical Affairs
1998–2000
Succeeded by
Johannes Lebech
Minister of Education
1998–2001
Succeeded by
Ulla Tørnæs
Preceded by
Lars Barfoed
Deputy Prime Minister of Denmark
2011–2014
Succeeded by
Morten Østergaard
Preceded by
Brian Mikkelsen
as Minister of the Economy
Minister of the Economy and Interior
2011–2014
Preceded by
Bertel Haarder
as Minister of the Interior
Preceded by
Connie Hedegaard
Danish European Commissioner
2014–present
Incumbent
Preceded by
Joaquín Almunia
European Commissioner for Competition
2014–present