EU Commission Recalibrates Its Positions with Big Tech, U.S.

The European Union is eagerly anticipating the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, even as it scrutinizes proposals targeting U.S. Big Tech behavior and, in some cases, business models in an effort to reestablish itself as the “global tech cop.” Although the Electoral College has yet to convene and vote and inauguration day isn’t until January 20, the European Commission and Council are already issuing policy papers on how they hope to partner with the new U.S. administration on numerous issues.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the European Commission is also “completing regulatory plans outlining how online platforms should remove illegal content quickly and refrain from using their power to quash rivals or push their own products on their sites.” Further, according to sources, it is putting into place “sanctions for violators that include fines and possible separation of assets.”

The rules do not target any specific companies but, said sources, “the bigger and more influential a company — based on criteria including market share and revenue — the more obligations it will shoulder.” The rules will likely apply to Amazon, Facebook and Google among other U.S. Big Tech companies. They, along with industry groups, “warned against creating a new set of competition rules that could hobble innovation.”

Politico reports that the European Council documents aim to help develop conclusions for a December 11-12 summit to be held by the EU ambassadors and the EU’s 27 heads of state and government in Brussels. Both these documents and a longer Commission paper on “A new EU-US agenda for global change” call for “immediate and urgent cooperation in managing the continuing coronavirus pandemic and the accompanying economic fallout” and express the hope that Biden will “reverse Trump’s decision to quit the World Health Organization.”

They also urge the EU “to push the U.S. ‘to lift sanctions against personnel of the International Criminal Court'” and encourage the Biden administration to “reengage … in the reform and strengthening of the [World Trade Organization].”

The papers also “call for renewed cooperation on climate change … [and] envision extensive new cooperation on trade and digital issues, as well as across the foreign policy sphere, including in pressuring China, on reviving the Iran nuclear deal, strengthening NATO, containing threats from Russia, ending conflicts in Ukraine and Libya, and bringing stability to the Middle East, Africa and other regions.”

One senior Commission official noted the Commission paper expresses that, “in the new relationship with the United States, what was important for us is that we are not passively sitting … and waiting for the U.S. administration to reach out.”

According to a second senior official, “the EU wanted to make clear its intention in being an equal partner with its own objectives.” “The predominance of the U.S. over the world is no longer a given,” said that official. “The United States is no doubt the most important partner that the European Union has in the international sphere and an ally. The European Union and the United States together constitute a very powerful actor in the world. If we join forces, we can change things. We can make things better.”