Reynders served as minister for finance (1999-2011), and for foreign affairs (2011-2019).
As finance minister, he devised a system granting major tax breaks to multinational companies, which was ruled illegal state aid by one Margrethe Vestager. His list of experience is long, serving initially as a lawyer before occupying several government positions and becoming a member of the Belgian Parliament in 1992. He was chairman of the Belgian national railway company before he turned to politics and occupied several ministerial positions. In 2019, Reynders was put forward as the Belgian candidate for the new European Commission where he will take charge of the Justice portfolio.
Confirmation hearing highlights
Emphasised defending the rule of law
Stressed data protection as a European priority
Committed to implementing the new legal framework defined by GDPR
Put consumer protection at the core of his mandate
Committed to examine the human and ethical aspects of AI, to see whether it’s possible to go further with liability
Committed to examine different aspects of AI, but was weary not to rush into promising new legislation
“About the human and ethical aspects of AI, we need to see how it’s possible to go further with liability ... Safety is a very important aspect, human and ethical aspect and liability, but in the first 100 days, I don’t want to assure you that we will have a new regulation on liability. It may be longer than that.”
Suggested a sectoral approach to AI and data strategy, to better address different difficulties
Gives priority to fighting against pirate practices in cooperation with platform and consumer associations
His main priorities will be ‘’upholding the rule of law’’ and ‘’justice and consumer protection’’. He is assigned to lead the EU’s work to ensure that the rule of law is upheld across the Union doing this in close cooperation with the EP and Member States.
He will lead the Commission on the comprehensive European rule of Law Mechanism and coordinate the Commission’s annual reporting and ensure the monitoring approach is equal in every Member State. He will have to focus on tighter enforcement and focus on communication and awareness-raising to ‘’promote a rule-of-law culture’’ among EU citizens. This should among others entail an annual rule-of-law event open to national stakeholders and civil-society organisations. Cooperation on rule-of-law issues with the Council of Europe and other international organisations should be strengthened.
In terms of justice and consumer protection trust must be built between the judicial systems of Member States to allow citizens to exercise their rights and allow business to make full use of the EU’s single market. Reynders will lead the work on consumer protection, particularly for cross-border and online transactions. Judicial cooperation between Member States should be facilitated and improved as well as development of the justice area. Von der Leyen stresses the importance of the Security Union where Reynders will have to focus on enhancing judicial cooperation and improving information exchange. As a part of this he will have to support setting up the European Public Prosecutor’s Office and to extend its powers to investigate and prosecute cross-border terrorism.
Other tasks proposed by President von der Leyen include the full implementation and enforcement of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the contribution to the legislation on a coordinated approach on the human and ethical implications of artificial intelligence, monitoring the protection of the rights conferred by the European citizenship and ensuring that company law contributes to the strategy on small and medium-sized businesses.
What he will be working on
Implementation of the GDPR
Recalling that Europe is a world leader when it comes to data protection and fundamental rights, Reynders declared the need to make sure that the new legal framework for data protection is fully implemented. He also said he’s ready to make use of all tools at disposal, including launching infringement procedures.