European Commission

Beating the Competition

It's no TV show. Source: Reuters
It's no TV show.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Ms. Vestager’s competition portfolio puts her in a position to make decisions affecting companies from Google to Gazprom.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • The lifelong politician is known to build bridges among colleagues with differing ideologies.
    • Her party is considered centrist-liberal in the classic free-market sense of liberalism.
    • She inspired the character Brigitte Nyborg in the series “Borgen.”
  • Audio

    Audio

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Margrethe Vestager’s hunt for a new home in Brussels has opened her eyes to how many of her new European Union colleagues live.

“When we went in the basement the realtors pointed out rooms and recommended that they could be for servants,” said Ms. Vestager, looking appalled.

The anecdote says something about the real estate market in Brussels, where investors easily re-label basements as living space, and hope to win diplomats as clients. But it says much more about a woman who has reached the highest levels of politics in Denmark and is shedding the image she once had as a coldhearted welfare-cutting politician. Ms. Vestager is showing her human, more personal side. But she still pursues her goals with great determination.

As deputy prime minister in Denmark, she regularly led the ranking of the most influential politicians. When she had the top post at the Danish opposition Social Liberal party, Radikale Venstre, from 2007 to 2011, the Danish public was so fascinated by her that she helped inspire the successful political series “Borgen.”

The mother of three daughters, aged 11, 15 and 18, has been handed one of the most important posts in the new E.U. Commission under President Jean-Claude Juncker. As the commissioner for competition, she can levy anti-trust fines in the billions, bar mergers, and rap the knuckles of member states when they distribute illegal subsidies. Her upcoming decision on the case of Google, which she inherited from her predecessor Joaquín Almunia, will constitute Europe’s answer to the supremacy of the U.S. Internet giant. It will depend on her whether or not Europe closes tax loopholes that companies like Apple and Starbucks have taken advantage of in countries like Luxembourg.

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