HomeCXO InterviewsCompetition Commissioner takes temporary leave for bank job

    Competition Commissioner takes temporary leave for bank job


    Margrethe Vestager is after a position at the European Investment Bank as big M&A decision is due

    The European Union’s President, Ursula von der Leyen, has granted the European Competition Commissioner temporary leave of absence to apply for a top job at the European Investment Bank (EIB).

    The veteran Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, is taking unpaid leave so she can put herself forward as the Danish government’s candidate for President of the Management Committee of the EIB.

    Split responsibilities

    The absence is expected to last for a few weeks and in the meantime, her Commissioner’s responsibilities will be split three ways. Vestager took on the Innovation and Research portfolio on a temporary basis when Mariya Gabriel quit in May. Margaritis Schinas will be left holding that baby for now.

    More importantly, Vestager’s digital Europe duties will go to the Values and Transparency VP Vera Jourová, while Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, is left holding the competition baby.

    The immediate timing of her departure and the potential longer term implications of her departure are interesting.

    Undaunted by criticism

    If Vestager succeeds in the being appointed to the EIB role, it could have repercussions for the telecoms industry if she is iinvolved in M&A policy. She has been against consolidation on the grounds that fewer operators mean less competition, which translates into less choice and higher prices for consumers. Rotten returns on investment, low share prices and poor CX doesn’t seem to enter into it.

    In the past she has been criticised for following principles rather than providing proof that this would be the case, for instance when she blocked the proposed merger between Three UK and O2 in the UK. Others, like Strand Consult, argue that the four-into-three competitors proposition is poorly understood and mergers tend to be blocked in the face of evidence to the contrary.

    Orange and MASMOVIL?

    More immediately, the Commission was due to deliver its final verdict on whether on Orange Spain will be allowed to merge with MASMOVIL, but decided it needed more time. In June, true to form, it started grumbling about the dangers of reducing the number of competitors and wanted the parties to propose remedies to protect consumers. It will be interesting to see what Reynders does in Vestager’s absence.