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Vestager, the Dane who is Google's bane

China Daily | Updated: 2017-09-13 07:41

BRUSSELS - If the critics of Silicon Valley needed a leader, many would turn to Denmark's Margrethe Vestager, the European Union's top antitrust regulator.

Around the world, authorities and governments now look to the elegant Dane who in June slapped Google with a record $2.9 billion fine for illegally favoring its shopping service in search results.

Google hit back on Monday, filing an appeal at the EU court, embittering ties between Europe and Silicon Valley even further.

The decision was the biggest blow inflicted on the US tech juggernaut.

But despite her thunderbolt decisions, Vestager, who took office as EU competition commissioner in 2014, is also known for infusing one of the EU's most feared positions with a welcome dose of humanity.

Across the EU institutions, Vestager is considered one of the most popular of the commission's 28 commissioners.

"She's loved by her team, and hugely respected," said a high-level Brussels official familiar with the often austere corridors of EU power.

Vestager's vast, bright office in the commission's Berlaymont headquarters is unlike most others.

The walls are cribbed with personal photographs - including of her three daughters - pinned alongside spirited, colorful pieces by Danish artist Kristina Gordon.

Her small desk faces out to the Brussels skyline suggesting more contemplative work than that of an official feared by highly paid lawyers and boardroom executives.

'I really liked it'

Vestager spoke of her antitrust portfolio matter-of-factly, but sparked to talk of the promise of Europe that she said had grown stronger from the drama of the debt crisis and Brexit.

"It's as if everyone has lifted up their gaze and said OK they want to leave, we'll find the best way to enable that, but for the rest of us: ahead!" she said.

Vestager, who inspired her country's hit television political drama Borgen, developed a taste for Europe's potential when the EU was at its miserable worst, caught in the throes of the eurozone debt crisis.

"One of the reasons I got enthusiastic about this was when I was minister of economics in Denmark," she said.

"We got the EU presidency so I was head of the Ecofin (the monthly meetings of EU ministers) only three months after I was minister: you set the agenda, you lead the meetings... and I really liked it."

Agence France-presse

 Vestager, the Dane who is Google's bane

Margrethe Vestager, EU commissioner of competition, is interviewed at her office in Brussels on Sept 4.John Thys / Agence Francepresse

(China Daily 09/13/2017 page11)

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