Public Affairs Networking
21/04 – Commission to tackle Google, Gazprom also targeted

Several member states’ media focus on topics related to Competition investigations, notably into Google and reported upcoming charges against Russian gas giant Gazprom. The former receives extensive coverage from US media, with a mainly negative tone towards the EU.

An article in The Wall Street Journal Europe suggests that comments from Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Günther Oettinger show that the EU’s real aim is to undermine Silicon Valley, while the International New York Times ponders the difficulty of proving the Commission’s claims. The USA Today includes both an interview with Commissioner Vestager and an article pointing out the New York Times’ report that the antitrust campaign is substantially financed by Microsoft.

In Germany, FAZ publishes an opinion article favourable to the measure, noting the difficulty of regulating such companies, but suggesting a strategy of constant dialog rather than precipitant prohibitions. In France, an opinion piece in Les Echos is markedly critical of the Commission for its accusations, underlining its repressive character and suggesting it should pay more attention to “entrepreneurial freedom”. There is a similar point of view in the UK’s Financial Times, which argues for a changed attitude and approach to technology sector regulation that allows for innovation while protecting against abuse. An opinion article published in Cinco Días in Spain notes that big European corporations should find ways to compete against Google instead of waiting for Brussels to make a decision on the antitrust investigation.

As for Gazprom, many European media relay unconfirmed reports, including one on lemonde.fr citing several sources that reveal that Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager could announce tomorrow that she is sending a statement of objections to the Russian gas giant. It adds that this measure, which the Commission refused to confirm, could have serious diplomatic consequences on the EU’s relations with Russia, but also that it would prove that Commissioner Vestager is not managing dossiers politically, but rather just applying European Competition law in a reference to the protectionism accusations on the Google case.

On this topic De Tijd in Belgium recalls what the Commissioner said at the announcement of the action against the Internet giant: “I do not care whether you are a European, Russian or American company. There are rules for competition that have to be respected.” Süddeutsche Zeitung in Germany adds that Gazprom’s business practices have been under investigation since 2012, while many Italian media report prominently on the situation, with La Stampa noting that the Russian company could risk a steep bill of 10% of its global turnover should the accusations be proven true, as also do Hospodářské noviny, iHNed.cz and ČRo Radiožurnál in the Czech Republic.

In the US, the International New York Times gives a reminder that the EU depends on Russia for a third of its natural gas, and considers the move to please countries that have been pressing the Union to crack down on Gazprom. Talouselämä in Finland and Capital Daily in Bulgaria warn that Russia would regard such an action as a political weapon. In Russia, Kommersant writes that the exact wording of the charges should be milder than the initial version, in terms of complaints about pricing and the number of problem markets.

©europeanunion2015

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