Nacho Alarcón. Brussels
04/20/2019 05:01 – Updated: 04/21/2013 08:22
Vera Jourová (1964, Czech Republic) has been Commissioner of Justice since November 2014. She has had a lot of work on the table and now she is preparing for the last months of the mandate, which tend to be more relaxed, since the European Parliament is going to elections within a month and the real activity will not be back until summer.
But her work is not over. The Czech will probably still be a Commissioner of Justice when, after the summer, the sentence of the trial of the leaders of the ‘procés‘ is made public, and as during the hottest days of 2017, many eyes will be placed on the European Commission, and in concrete about her, as manager of the justice branch.
Jourová is calm. “Our position is that we respect the decisions of national justice,” she explains in an interview with El Confidencial. “I do not know what the sentence will be, but again we will be very cautious, because this is an internal issue of the country”, says the Czech.
The only way to Europeanize the sentence would be, she says, if “we saw that there is a lack of independence and impartiality” in the national justice, “as has been the case in Poland”, whose judicial reform has ended up reaching the Court of Justice of the European Union.
But is there any comparison possible between Spain and Poland in this case? “We do not see any reform of the Spanish judicial system that calls into question its independence”, cuts the Justice Commissioner.
The last time Jourová was in the eye of the ‘procés‘ hurricane was not precisely because of the complaints of pro-independence activists against the supposed lack of impartiality of the Spanish justice, but it was on the part of anti-independence politicians: when the European arrest warrant against Carles Puigdemont, former president of the Generalitat, failed. Then the Czech also settled the matter: the European arrest warrant was a “success story” for the EU.
From Barcelona to Silicon Valley
The ‘procés‘ pursued Jourová to the very Silicon Valley. During the most stressed days of the independence procés, the Justice Commissioner was in California, visiting the digital giants with whom she keeps a pulse back in her office in Brussels. Her two main concerns crossed their path.
Jourová was visiting the United States in her effort to get digital platforms to fight against extremist content and against false news, two of her priorities. “They have to do it, but without touching our political debate; that depends on us”, the commissioner explains.
“I was there when the referendum took place, and the American companies asked me: ‘where is Catalonia? We do not know anything about that. What do we have to do with that? We are flooded with requests to suspend websites and discussions on social networks, ‘”Jourová explains to this newspaper.
The commissioner assures that the digital giants received requests from both sides of the digital trenches asking for the suspension of accounts and websites. From Jourová’s point of view, these decisions should not be left to the discretion of multinationals that have no knowledge of the internal situation of a country.
“It was weird, because I wanted to discuss other things and suddenly I had to explain the situation in Spain. I did not expect this to happen. But there I realized the impact and consequences on democracy if we do not create some rules” on how to regulate the digital world, says the Czech.
Although the Catalan theme has affected the agenda of the commissioner, it has not been what has occupied the longest time. In her office located on the sixth floor of one of the buildings of the European Parliament of Strasbourg, where the plenary session of the European Parliament is held, Jourová remembers.
“Our job is to raise the law before the digital world, to prevent it from becoming a jungle”, explains the commissioner, who however, five years later working on it, cannot understand the positions defended by certain sectors: “I do not understand why so many people believe that the internet should be a place without law”.
The Czech has worked hand in hand with Margrethe Vestager, Competition Commissioner, who has imposed record fines on the technological giants. “It is not only technology that is ahead of us (of the laws), it is also the big capital that leads us, and the big capital should not be so big that it can buy the whole world”, she explains.
That is why Jourová is happy with the European data protection law, because, she assures, it adjusts accounts between consumers and companies. “American technology companies make a lot of money in Europe, and they owe a lot to Europeans”, so it’s almost an obligation to ensure that “people get something back”: specifically, “control over their privacy”. In addition, the commissioner warns the digital giants: if people lose confidence in them, their business model will jump through the air.
The commissioner is also worried about the European elections, and has been working for months to avoid scandals such as Cambridge Analytica, or as she calls it: “Hacking brains”. “We do not legislate on this, but we recommend the States members just to review their political marketing rules”, she says.
“Misinformation and false news are not illegal content, the lie has always been here, but it is harmful. We cannot be passive”, she explains, while recalling the outcomes other exposures to the fake news have had.
Jourová also sees a profound social transformation on the internet, and asks that families and schools continue to play the central role in the education of the youngest. “Facebook cannot be the father and Google the mother. We have to realize that we have a lot of work to do in the real world”, she says.
At the same time, the commissioner believes that the times that are to come will not be simple: the digital transformation has only just begun and it will be a revolution that will continue for many years. “The world is a complex place, we are in a kind of transition. These rapid changes contribute to the anxiety of the people, who after an economic crisis, suddenly, above all, discover that there are technological changes that make people unsure about what will come next”, the commissioner explains. “I think in Spain this feeling of anxiety has been very strong”, she adds.