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Ansip to provide temporary cover on EU’s digital-economy portfolio

EU Commission holds off fixing a long-term appointment until after Bulgaria picks new EU representative

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The EU Commission today postponed its search for a candidate to fill its empty digital-economy portfolio, announcing that Vice President Andrus Ansip will take over Commissioner Günther Oettinger’s workload on a temporary basis.

The EU executive will put off making a full term appointment until Bulgaria nominates a new Commissioner – a process likely to happen after the country votes in a new government in the Spring. As vice president for digital affairs, Ansip is an obvious stop-gap choice to pick up Oettinger’s workload.

The digital vacancy opened up after Bulgaria’s Kristalina Georgieva, who has been in charge of the budget and administrative portfolio since 2014, resigned in October to take a job as CEO of the World Bank. Oettinger, Germany’s EU representative, was then tapped by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to take over her duties.

Today’s temporary reallocation leaves open the possibility that EU Research Commissioner Carlos Moedas could eventually be elevated to fill the digital brief on a permanent basis. 

Ansip has previously called Moedas the top candidate for the role, but privately the Portuguese Commissioner is said to be keen to see out the main policy pieces under his brief, in particular plans for a new European Innovation Council and a new fund of funds.

Moedas declined to comment on his link to the job following a question from Science|Business in November. Today an official from his office also declined to comment. 

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In October 2016, the Science|Network of universities, companies and innovation organisations gathered in Brussels to debate the future of EU R&D programmes. The result: A profusion of ideas, recommendations and warnings for the future of EU research and innovation.