Vice-President of the European Commission Margrethe Vestager and European Innovation Commissioner Mariya Gabriel give a press conference on the digital education action plan, the European research area, and the European education in Brussels, Belgium on September 30 2020. Picture: REUTERS/OLIVIER HOSLET
Vice-President of the European Commission Margrethe Vestager and European Innovation Commissioner Mariya Gabriel give a press conference on the digital education action plan, the European research area, and the European education in Brussels, Belgium on September 30 2020. Picture: REUTERS/OLIVIER HOSLET

Brussels — Covid-19 business subsidies totalling about €3-trillion have been “very unevenly distributed” in the EU and risk fracturing the bloc’s single market, antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager says.

Germany’s greater financial firepower is allowing it to help its domestic companies far more than some other EU nations, with the nation accounting for about half of the money pledged to date in loan guarantees, grants, subsidised loans and company rescues.

Failing to tackle inequality in state aid may mean that “there is a high risk that the union will tip,” Vestager said.

“Right now we are trying to figure out how much of that budget has actually been paid out, how much has actually been used because part of my responsibility is of course to control state aid, to prevent the unlevelling of the playing field,” Vestager said.

EU leaders have not yet decided on a €750bn coronavirus fund that tries to stem that inequality and could provide Italy with €200bn in grants and loans.

The Dane said she wants EU countries to commit a fifth of the money they receive from that new fund to pay for digital projects. She is also preparing new rules that could curb technology giants and set clearer rights for how they must treat customers and businesses.

“Now is the time to make sure society and democracy catches up with big tech” as existing legislation dates back to “the digital stone age” about 20 years ago, she said.

Bloomberg

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