20th Mar 2018

From Borgen to Brussels: Who is the new EU competition commissioner?

  • Vestager will have to steer clear of politics in her new role as anti-trust chief in the EU (Photo: European Parliament)

When Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt was touted as the next EU council chief, comparisons with Denmark's popular political tv series Borgen abounded.

Borgen's main character Birgitte Nyborg is a hands-on, centrist politician, who in the series became the first female Prime Minister of Denmark, only to be copied by reality a year later, in 2011, when Thorning Schmidt was elected head of government. But the real inspiration for Nyborg did not come from the blonde politician who famously took a selfie with US President Barack Obama. It came from Margrethe Vestager.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

A trained economist, Vestager entered politics at the age of 25 and soon became minister, the latest position being that of minister of economy and interior. Her credo: "Politics should enable people to make free choices."

At 46, she is the mother of three teenage daughters and married to a maths-and-philosophy teacher. As leader of a smaller centrist, social-liberal party, she was the inspiration for the main character in Borgen (also the name of Denmark's parliament) , who also tries to juggle family life and politics.

"The actress followed me around for a day when I was minister of economy, to see how it works," Vestager said over dinner with several Brussels-based journalists on Tuesday (28 October).

Like the Borgen character who consults her family when offered the Prime Minister post, Vestager consulted her family about moving to Brussels, where she is to become the next EU competition commissioner.

"It's important to discuss such decisions in a family," she said. They all agreed to the move, complete with the golden retriever. Just her eldest daughter, who is preparing for medical university next year, will stay in Copenhagen.

These days, Vestager is busy setting up her cabinet. Chief of staff will be a Danish EU official who has dealt with trade and sustainable development in the Commission, Ditte Juul-Jorgensen. She will be seconded by a Scot, Linsey McCallum, who has served as director in DG competition, in charge of information, communication and media.

The fact that men will be in minority in her cabinet is not something planned. "I simply looked for competent people."

A politician through and through, Vestager will however have the least political portfolio: going after cartels and illegal state aid.

"I want to protect the rule of law," she says. In that, she promises more transparency, especially when dealing with lobbyists and powerful companies.

Google has already sent her a "welcome" letter praising her while numerous lobbyists have approached her, trying to set up meetings for their clients.

"It's amazing how you can earn money just by setting up meetings," Vestager said. She refused to meet anybody so far noting she is "not yet commissioner." And after she takes office, on 1 November?

"I know there will be a lot of pressure. But I will publish my meetings, and this will also serve as a protection mechanism," she says.

EU to accuse Google of abusing power

EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager is expected to file charges against US internet company Google on Wednesday.


Bayer-Monsanto merger could harm EU food sector

Mega-mergers in the food sector have become commonplace, but EU laws do little to help it keep check on the impact this could have on the environment, public health, and food security.


Selmayr case symptomatic, says EU novel author

The controversy over the new EU Commission top civil servant is revealing of what is wrong with EU institutions and how they are blocked by national governments, says award-winning Austrian novelist Robert Menasse.


The populists may have won, but Italy won't leave the euro

The situation as Rome tries to form a government is turbulent and unpredictable. However, the most extreme eurosceptic policies floated during the election campaign are unlikely to happen - not least due to the precarious state of the Italian banks.


Why has central Europe turned so eurosceptic?

Faced with poorer infrastructure, dual food standards and what can seem like hectoring from western Europe it is not surprising some central and eastern European member states are rebelling.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders expected to approve Brexit future talks guidelines
  2. Tusk: EU must 'continue to engage' with US on trade
  3. European elections set for 23-26 May 2019
  4. EU tries to find common candidate for top UN food job
  5. Facebook post triggers Norway no-confidence vote
  6. Merkel: 'no reason' to sanction Schroeder for Russia support
  7. MEPs and Council strike deal on posted workers' rights
  8. EU parliament to investigate Facebook data 'breach'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EUobserverHiring - Sales Associate With 2+ Years Experience - Apply Now!
  2. EUobserverHiring - Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience - Apply Now!
  3. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  4. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  5. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  7. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  8. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  10. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  11. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  12. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?