The European Union plans to open an office in San Francisco to engage with Silicon Valley tech giants under the watchful eye of new digital rules, EU officials familiar with the matter told POLITICO.
Some of the world’s most powerful tech giants are based in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area of Northern California, including Apple, Google and Meta Platforms. All face tough restrictions and closer scrutiny from recently passed EU rules, such as the Digital Markets Act and the Digital Services Act.
“The EU plans to open an office in San Francisco, oriented to the west coast of the United States, including Silicon Valley, with a focus on digital policies and technology,” an EU official said. at POLITICO.
The EU already has a Washington-based delegation overseen by the bloc’s foreign affairs arm – the European External Action Service. The new San Francisco office is expected to operate under the “direction” of the Washington team.
The EEAS could not provide further details on the expected timetable for the opening of the office. A manager confirmed that “procedures are underway” to recruit staff.
California EU love
One Brussels bureaucrat vying for a top job on the west coast is Gerard de Graaf, according to an EU official familiar with the matter. The senior EU official leads the digital economy and coordination team in the European Commission’s DG Connect, which is responsible for developing the bloc’s digital policy.
De Graaf has some experience in the United States. He was Trade Advisor to the Commission’s Delegation to the United States in Washington, DC, from 1997 to 2001.
This isn’t the first time European officials have tried to funnel a direct line to Silicon Valley. In 2017, Denmark became the first country to move to the Golden State, with career diplomat Casper Klynge being shipped to California. The stint only lasted until March 2020, when Klynge took over as Microsoft’s vice president for European government affairs. Denmark’s global “tech ambassador” is now Anne Marie Engtoft Larsen, based in Switzerland, and the Silicon Valley office is supplemented by Helena Mølgaard Hansen.
Happy Parliament Day in Silicon Valley
Meanwhile, a trip by members of the European Parliament to Silicon Valley during the week of May 23, as previously reported by POLITICO, will include visits to the headquarters of Meta and Google, as well as universities such as Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley. MEPs sought – and failed – to get big tech bosses to visit them in Brussels last year ahead of key decisions on new digital enforcement rules.
The May trip will be coordinated by Parliament’s Internal Market Committee and led by the lawmaker who drafted Parliament’s position on DMA, Andreas Schwab. The German politician sparked a political storm in 2014 over a parliament resolution threatening to break up the tech giants if the commission did not make progress in its antitrust probe into Google.
Schwab has since managed to win cross-party allies in Washington, many of whom are advocating for a tougher regulatory framework for the digital giants. A joint statement praising DMA was sign by Republican Congressman Ken Buck and House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline.
Smooth sailing? not likely
The EU’s foray into Silicon Valley comes at a time of heightened U.S. interest in antitrust enforcement and greater tension over digital regulation. US officials have criticized EU regulatory efforts to focus on US companies and potentially open online security vulnerabilities, according to several letters seen by POLITICO. Apple CEO Tim Cook, in particular, has repeatedly said that an EU requirement to open app stores to third-party developers could “destroy iPhone security.”
The DMA outlines a series of do’s and don’ts for Big Tech market abuse, while the DSA introduces new general rules on illegal and harmful content online. Both texts have now been adopted by the EU institutions.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this report contained an error on California’s nickname. It’s the Golden State.
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