Apple CEO Tim Cook. Picture: ROY ROCHLIN/WIREIMAGES
Apple CEO Tim Cook. Picture: ROY ROCHLIN/WIREIMAGES

Dublin/Brussels — Apple CEO Tim Cook will receive an award in Dublin on January 20 in recognition of the iPhone maker’s 40 years of investment in Ireland.

Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar will present Cook with the accolade, according to IDA Ireland, the country’s investment agency.

Ireland’s decision to present Apple with an award may raise some eyebrows. Although it’s one of the country’s biggest employers, with 6,000 workers in Cork, it’s still reeling from being hit with a record €13bn tax bill from the European Commission in one of the biggest state aid cases on record.

More recently, Apple shelved a plan to build a $1bn data centre in the west of Ireland, citing difficulties with the planning system.

Focus on the visit may be heightened with Varadkar set to face a general election within months. One of the country’s largest opposition parties, Sinn Fein, has criticised the government for fighting the tax case, saying the money should be accepted as a windfall to build homes and hospitals.

The Irish government and Apple both vehemently deny they have done anything wrong.

Economic model

Cook will receive the award in recognition of Apple’s commitment to investing in Ireland, the IDA said. In part, the Irish economic model is based on attracting overseas companies.

“We should never take foreign direct investment for granted,” Martin Shanahan, CEO of the agency, said in a statement.

Separately on January 20, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai will make a rare public appearance in Brussels, where he’s scheduled to speak at the Bruegel think-tank about the development of responsible artificial intelligence. Microsoft’s Brad Smith will also be in Brussels that day to promote his new book, “Tools and weapons: the promise and the peril of the digital age.”

The visits by the tech chiefs to Europe come as regulators in the region continue to take a tough line on US digital giants over issues ranging from their collection of user data and whether they give preference to their own services on their platforms over those of rivals. Google and Apple in particular are still entangled in drawn-out legal battles with the EU over competition and tax issues, respectively.

Pichai’s and Smith’s talks will take place several weeks before the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, is set to unveil it’s plan to support the ethical development of artificial intelligence in the bloc.

Bloomberg