Bulgarian MEP to lead on EU’s digital economy

By on 21/05/2017
Mariya Gabriel, MEP, is set to head up the European Commission’s digital economy and society portfolio (Image courtesy: European Parliament).

Bulgarian Member of the European Parliament Mariya Gabriel is set to head up the European Commission’s digital economy and society portfolio, after the Bulgarian government nominated her as its next commissioner.

The appointment, which is subject to approval by the European Parliament, was announced by European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker after he interviewed Gabriel on Tuesday 16 May.

Hearings before relevant parliamentary committees, where the candidate will be quizzed by MEPs who then confirm the appointment in a vote, are expected to take place in June.

Gabriel, who is in her second term as an MEP for the centre-right European People’s Party, has been active in the areas of visa policies and migration and was rapporteur for agreements on visa-free travel in the Schengen area for nationals of Columbia, Peru, Georgia and Ukraine. But she has little experience of the IT industry.

Asked by the Politico website about criticism of her lack of experience on digital issues, Gabriel said that being a commissioner was “primarily a political job, not a technical one”, adding that she took the appointment as “a major responsibility and a sign of trust from the Bulgarian government and the commission.”

Gabriel replaces Kristalina Georgieva as Bulgaria’s commissioner on the EC. Georgieva, who was vice president for budget and human resources, left on 31 December to become CEO of the World Bank.

Gunther Oettinger, the former commissioner for digital economy and society, took over Georgieva’s role and Andrus Ansip, vice president for the digital single market, has taken on Oettinger’s work since January. The nomination was made on 10 May.

If all goes to plan, Gabriel will work under Ansip and Jyrki Katainen, the EU’s vice president for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, to push through the EC’s digital single market strategy.

The strategy includes a ban on mobile phone providers charging ‘roaming’ fees when customers cross national boundaries within the EU; plans to ensure free portability of digital content including films, music, games and e-books; and the release of the 700MHz band for development of 5G online services across the EU.

A mid-term review of the digital single market strategy was announced on 10 May by Ansip. It identified three key areas for further action by the EU: developing the European data economy; tackling cybersecurity challenges; and regulating on-line platforms.

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See also:

EU gender equality report reveals ‘mountain to climb’

Bulgaria passes legislation requiring all future government software to be open source

Progress on female ministers has stalled, says UN

About Liz Heron

Liz Heron is a journalist based in London, who specialises in international news. She worked on daily newspapers for 16 years, reporting extensively on both general news and education. She was Education Editor of the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and has contributed to a wide range of British media including The Independent, The Guardian and the BBC.

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