Thierry Breton, Commissioner-Designate for the Internal Market says:

“We haven’t lost the battle, there are a lot of technologies where Europe is a leader.” 

On 14th November, former Atos CEO Thierry Breton faced his three-hour public hearing in front of the European Parliament after Sylvie Goulard, France’s first choice for the post, was rejected by MEPs because of legal and ethical concerns. Thierry Breton’s hearing was set to be a difficult one, with MEPs expected to take a shot at potential conflicts of interests linked to his private sector background and, most importantly, as CEO of the tech company Atos.

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As Commissioner Designate for the Internal Market, he will oversee a strategic portfolio spanning the single market, industry, defence, space and digital policy. A large portfolio that also raises questions on how he will work together with Vice-President Margrethe Vestager on Europe’s digital agenda. Edelman’s tech team carried out a short analysis that delves into the topics raised during the hearing and takes a closer look at Thierry Breton’s answers. Here are our main takeaways!


Following his opening speech, Thierry Breton did not lose any speed as he faced questions from the Industry, Research and Energy Committee and the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee. Unlike Sylvie Goulard’s hearing, his hearing was one predominantly focused on content, with a majority of MEPs aiming their questions at core areas of his portfolio. On the single market, MEPs were interested in Breton’s SME strategy and how he aims to achieve the completion of the single market, including the full implementation of the free movement of services. Several MEPs also asked him how he aims to include the environmental aspect to his industrial strategy. On the digital economy, questions of MEPs focused on artificial intelligence, the new Digital Services Act and achieving technological sovereignty. MEPs’ questions on defence were predominantly focused on the European Defence Fund.



Nonetheless, MEPs from the Greens and far-left GUE/NLG did not miss the chance to push hard on the potential conflict of interest he would bring as Commissioner, pointing to his role as former CEO of Atos. Answers that left them wanting further clarification but that did seem to satisfy MEPs from the European People’s Party, the Socialists & Democrats, the European Conservatives and Reformists and Renew Europe who voted in favour of his nomination, thus confirming him as Commissioner.


“If you confirm me in office, all that will be guiding me is the European general interest.” 

After showing his language skills starting in English, switching to German and closing in French, Thierry Breton started off strong in his opening speech in an effort to alleviate concerns over conflicts of interest. He declared himself free of any shares in companies and no longer holding any offices, highlighting his commitment to act in the European interest. In response to one MEP, he added “I no longer have interests in the companies I have led. Zero. No interest.”

“Protect, transform, project.” 

On his priorities for the single market, Thierry Breton said he will focus on a three-stroke engine: protection, transformation and looking to the future. This includes ensuring the rules of the single market are properly enforced and protecting SMEs and start-ups from outside competition. He also stressed the need to prepare tomorrow’s growth by investing in technologies of the future, mentioning 5G, 6G, artificial intelligence, cyber-security, quantum technology, cloud and post-cloud.

“I won’t be the voice of regulation on AI. […] I will be the commissioner of data.” 

Following the importance of artificial intelligence during Vestager’s hearing, Thierry Breton was, as expected, also faced with similar questions on the topic. He made clear that he won’t be the voice of regulation on AI and that regulation will come from the College of Commissioners, whom he will support. Instead, he put emphasis on being the commissioner of data focused on facilitating cross-border data sharing, in an effort to distinguish between the three pillars of the Commission’s focus on AI - data, computing power and algorithms.

“We haven’t lost the battle, there are a lot of technologies where Europe is a leader.” 

Thierry Breton gave a strong answer to assumptions that Europe is falling behind countries such as the US and China regarding technology. Mentioning the need to address the tech sector’s carbon footprint, Breton emphasised green technology as an area where Europe is and will be a leader.


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