Countdown to the EU Elections: Who Will be the Next Digital Champions?

Posted on 16th May 2019


In a week’s time, voters in the European Union will elect a new European Parliament. Aside from customary issues like immigration and the economy, digital policy has become an integral part of campaign platforms, particularly fiscal policy for digital companies, Internet freedom and consumer protection. Industry players should build their engagement plans for the next five years as party lists are finalised.

As a reminder, the election process differs across the region, between closed lists (whereby the party decides the preferred candidates) and preferential voting (whereby the voters rank the candidates), and between single (one list per party) and multiple constituencies (one list per party and per electoral region). While predictions are less reliable for member states with multiple constituencies or/and a preferential system, a profile assessment of the candidates can help identify those likely to be involved in the digital-focused committees of the next parliament.

For example, Marina Kaljurand, who chaired the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace, could potentially lead cybersecurity policy if elected with the Estonian Social Democratic Party. Former prime minister from the Estonian Reform Party, Taavi Rõivas — a supporter of digital integration in the public sector —and former Tallinn mayor and incumbent Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure from the Centre Party, Taavi Aas, will likely drive digital policy initiatives. Nearby in Latvia, Professor Andis Kudors from the New Conservative Party will almost certainly win a seat and continue his engagement on Internet policy issues.

West of the Baltic countries, the Spanish centre party Cuidadanos is presenting a telecommunications engineer, Christiano Brown (ranked 12th) with the party projected to win around 11-12 seats. Right-wing populist party Vox’s Mazaly Aguilar, a former executive at Vodafone, is also expected to win.

Unsurprisingly, most tech-focused candidates are in Germany, including CDU’s Tilman Kuban, a strong advocate for AI adoption and 4th on the Lower Saxony List. The Green Party, projected to win as many as 17 seats, includes candidates like Alexandra Geese and Rasmus Andersen, both campaigning on data ethics and freedom of expression.

In countries with preferential systems, like Italy, predictions can be made based on popular opinion. For example, within the Five Star Movement, a prominent businesswoman in tech, Alessandra Todde, and mayor of Livorno, Filippo Nogarin, an advocate of smart cities, both have high chances of winning in the South and Centre constituencies, respectively. However, it is still too soon to predict whether Paolo Borchia, a political adviser on the ITRE committee, will win even though his party, the far-right League, is projected to win the most votes.

Across the Channel, Diana Wallis — a former MEP between 1999 and 2012 whose policy portfolio includes e-justice, e-law and e-commerce — is running for a seat. Leaving the Liberal Democrats for the newly formed ChangeUK – The Independent Group in London, her chances of obtaining a seat look slim.

While individual predictions are difficult, we can expect nationalist parties, like the Brexit Party in the United Kingdom or the League in Italy, to win big and potentially form a pan-European nationalist alliance.

Tech will inevitably remain a major policy area in the next European Parliament and with key files still open, such as the ePrivacy Regulation, industry players should gather intelligence on future policy-makers and proceed to further analysis once the 751 seats are filled.

For more details on these candidates, download candidate profiles document:

Download Candidate Profiles

Author: Julian McNeill, Policy Analyst, Access Partnership

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Countdown to EU Elections Part One: What Will EU Elections Mean for Digital Companies?

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