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EU eyes diplomacy with new office in Silicon Valley – EURACTIV.com

One of the main tasks of the new European Union office in San Francisco will be to ensure that relations with US tech giants remain constructive rather than adversarial as new digital rules come into force . This was announced by a senior European Commission official on Thursday (July 28).

The opening of the EU office in San Francisco was first officially mentioned in the EU Council Conclusions on the bloc’s digital diplomacy on July 18, its aim being to “to establish contacts with the authorities and stakeholders in the field”.

The new West Coast office will open September 1 and will serve as“antenna” of the EU Delegation to the United States, whose main office is in Washington DC. This is the first time that an EU Delegation has opened a second office in the same country.

“It is important to have a positive regulator/regulated relationship”said Gerard de Graaf, of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Communication Networks, Content and Technologies, to journalists during a press briefing. “I see our role as trying to facilitate implementation and compliance. »

Mr. de Graaf will head this new office. A true veteran of the Commission, he was the director who oversaw the drafting and approval of the Digital Markets Act (Digital Markets ActDMA) and the Digital Services Act (Digital Services ActDSA), two key texts which will enter into force during the course of the year.

He insisted that the new EU delegation will not be limited to big tech companies — Big Tech — as the West Coast is experiencing many technological and regulatory developments of interest to the European Union.

Nevertheless, the timetable indicates that the office will play an important role in the implementation of future legislation, since the European Commission will take on the role of regulator of the EU’s internal market for the first time.

This role could be significant in the case of the DMA, which allows a regulatory dialogue between the Commission and the large technology companies concerned, the “access controllers”so that they better integrate the new legal constraints into their mode of operation.

Some of the DMA’s obligations affect the very business model of the companies involved, de Graaf noted, giving the example of operating systems that will have to open up to other App Stores.

Therefore, he continued, implementation will not just be a matter for lawyers, but for strategic decisions about where these companies want to go. The European manager is convinced that, in the context of these strategic discussions, it is best to deal directly with the company’s headquarters.

Although the Commission seems determined to prevent the situation from escalating, everyone expects the new rules to be taken to court. Mr. de Graaf said he had meetings with major tech companies attended by dozens of lawyers.

He explained, however, that disputes are commonplace when new rules are implemented and that regulators should always expect their decisions to be challenged. According to him, litigation can even, to a certain extent, be beneficial for the regulator and allow it to clarify new legal concepts.

Mr. de Graaf’s former position as head of digital transformation is currently vacant and is not expected to be filled before the end of the year. Mr. de Graaf will move to San Francisco with his political assistant Joanna Smolinska and will also recruit two local collaborators.

The Consulate General of Ireland will host EU officials for the first year until they set up their own office. The director of the Commission explained that the office would initially resemble a start-up, starting on a small scale but with the possibility of expanding once its added value has been demonstrated.

The new office is also expected to take part in Silicon Valley’s thriving start-up ecosystem, explore opportunities for collaboration with the United States on innovation programs such as Horizon Europe and Digital Europe, and support policy discussions in the framework of the EU-US Trade and Technology Council.

With regard to policy discussions, the new office will also facilitate dialogue with policy makers at the state level. Mr. de Graaf believes that the latter have acquired an even more important role since the political polarization in Washington DC hampers any legislative proposal.

Discussions are expected to take place with state legislators in California, Arizona and Washington.

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