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The “Brussels effect”, how Europe imposes its standards on multinationals Subscribers

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After the butterfly effect or the placebo effect, here is the “Brussels effect”. Theorized by Finnish-American jurist Anu Bradford in 2012, the phenomenon continues to be observed a decade later. This “Brussels effect”, which goes hand in hand with the question of the influence of the European Union (EU), describes the capacity of the Old Continent to unilaterally regulate the world market.

If the EU organizes its internal market, the multinationals are in fact responsible for globalizing these rules – quite simply because these companies cannot compose without this market of some 450 million consumers and it costs them less to apply the European standards to all of their products or services than to embark on differentiated production.

“EU laws determine how wood is cut in Indonesia, how honey is produced in Brazil, what pesticides are used by cocoa farmers in Cameroon”, lists Anu Bradford in a book published in 2020.

GDPR, a global standard

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is another well-known example of this ability to influence. This text, which came into force in 2018, aims to further protect personal information in the possession of companies and administrations. European negotiators have provided that this regulation is binding on any public or private organization established on EU territory or which targets European residents. But many companies have chosen to apply the rules of the GDPR everywhere, which has established itself as a global standard.

→ READ. Personal data: how the European Union wants to protect the communications of Internet users

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The next regulations on digital regulation, currently under negotiation, should experience the same fate. The first text – the “Digital Services Act” – aims to regulate online content by conferring editorial responsibility on platforms, while the second – the “Digital Markets Act” – aims to introduce new obligations for the largest platforms. “With these rules, which embody the desire to set up a regulated Internet, Europe is participating in the creation of a new global humanism”, testifies a French government source.

In Brussels, Jean-François Drevet, a former Commission official, explains: “Companies are following suit for convenience. Nothing says that they adhere to the philosophy of the European legislators, but they consider that complying with European standards is worth the effort, otherwise they would lose access to the European market. »

Advance regulations

MEP Stéphanie Yon-Courtin, who is currently negotiating the “Digital Markets Act” in the European Parliament, is convinced: “Europe is truly a modern day influencer! Initially, thanks to this “Brussels effect”, companies comply with European standards. Then, to fill any legal voids, third countries legislate along the same lines. American competition law will evolve, that’s for sure. »

Are the European institutions aware of the effect they have on the rest of the world? “When Anu Bradford presented the results of his work in Brussels, there was an effect of surprise, especially among European officials who did not think that the legislation they shape could have as much impact”, testifies Jean-François Drevet, who adds that, “Now everyone is starting to realize this ‘Brussels effect’”.

Sometimes it is even anticipated. Thus, in a recent interview given to The cross, the Executive Vice-President of the Commission Frans Timmermans declared, with regard to the carbon border adjustment mechanism that Europe (MACF) wants to put in place, that the latter “was already working, even if it has not formally entered into force”. And the Dutchman to detail: “When the Turkish government tells me that it has decided to sign and ratify the Paris agreement; when the Russian government says that it is also going to try the experiment of putting a price on carbon because it does not want to be affected by this mechanism, it means that it is already producing effects. »

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New regulations for Gafa

The European Commission presented in December 2020 its plan intended to regulate the digital giants, via two regulations: the Digital Services Act (DSA), which aims in particular to combat the proliferation of hateful content and disinformation; the Digital Markets Act (DMA) which aims to restore free competition.

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The start of the negotiations between the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament on the Digital Markets Act was given on Tuesday 11 January, each having already defined its position on the subject.

MEPs must speak out during the week of January 17 on the Digital Services Act.

Final agreement on each text is hoped for before June, under the French presidency of the Council of the EU.

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