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Week Ahead (25 March)

W/C Monday, 25 March – Luis Montenegro expected to unveil his cabinet in Portugal, following narrow election victory of centre-right alliance

This week, Luis Montenegro, the leader of the centre-right Democratic Alliance (AD) coalition will unveil his cabinet. Last week, he received an invitation from Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa to form a new government, once the final election results confirmed AD’s narrow electoral victory on 10 March.


The final seat allocation was determined only after counting overseas mail-in votes, leading to a slight adjustment in the seat distribution among the parties. AD secured the most votes, earning 80 seats in the 230-seat parliament, followed by the ruling Socialist Party (PS), in power since 2015, which came a close second with 78 seats. Notably, the far-right Chega (‘’Enough’’) surged in popularity, becoming the third largest party under the leadership of a former television sports commentator, Andre Ventura, with 50 seats. Ventura's populist anti-establishment message resonated with voters disillusioned with corruption, rising housing costs, low wages, and struggling public services which dominated the agenda in previous weeks.


Montenegro, set to be sworn in as Prime Minister on 2 April, has promised a focus on youth, a robust economy, and improved public health services.  In the absence of a clear parliamentary majority, Montenegro faces the challenge of securing legislative support, potentially requiring negotiations with other parties, including Chega. Even though he has repeatedly ruled out relying on the far-right for support, a group of MPs from his Social Democratic party (PSD) are strongly making the case that a stable majority government in alliance with Chega is the only responsible course.  Should he proceed without Chega, per his commitment, his first major challenge will likely come in the autumn when the parliament has to agree a budget for 2025.  Failure to pass a budget will almost certainly result in fresh elections. 

W/C Monday, 25 March – European Commission likely to announce inaugural DMA probes into Apple, Google, and Meta

This week, the European Commission is poised to launch full-scale investigations into Apple, Google, and Meta’s compliance with the new Digital Markets Act (DMA). More specifically, the upcoming investigations are expected to mainly focus on the new fees, terms and conditions that Apple and Google have imposed on new developers. Meta will likely be scrutinised over its subscription-based ad-free versions of Facebook and Instagram, also known as the ‘’pay or ok’’ model.


At the first DMA workshop on Monday, Apple defended the company’s new fee on apps, arguing that it was ‘’fair’’ and ‘’reasonable’’. However, the Coalition for App Fairness, which represents inter alia Spotify and Epic Games reiterated that this approach discriminates against digital goods sellers.


On Tuesday, Meta offered to almost halve its monthly subscription fees under the ‘’the pay or ok model’’ to €5.99 from €9.99. Nevertheless, Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager voiced her concerns about Apple’s and Meta’s proposed fees, warning that it could prevent users from enjoying DMA benefits which aim to give them more choices. This statement could be interpreted as paving the way for the launch of the first probes under the new rules.


The DMA’s purpose is to regulate the digital market by preventing big tech companies, referred to as ‘’gatekeepers’’ from abusing their dominant market positions, and opening competition to smaller competitors. To that end, it introduces new responsibilities for tech companies, including sharing data, linking to competitors, and ensuring interoperability with rival apps. Companies with an annual turnover exceeding €7.5 billion, a market capitalisation of over €75 billion, and active monthly users in the EU totalling 45 million fall under these rules. The European Commission has the power to investigate the actions of gatekeepers and fine them up to 10% of their global turnover from the preceding year if they are found to be in breach of the DMA.


Tuesday, 26 March – European Commission to host workshop on Microsoft’s compliance with the DMA rules

On Tuesday, the European Commission will host its DMA compliance workshop with Microsoft.  Last week, the Commission hosted such workshops with Apple, Meta, and Alphabet (Google), with ByteDance (TikTok) following suit today.  Earlier this month, the online travel platform Booking and the social media platform X also filed a notification as potential gatekeepers, expected to become the latest entries in the list of gatekeepers and the first European platform to be regulated by the new rules. 


Last month, Microsoft successfully secured exemptions for three of its services, namely Bing, Edge, and Microsoft Advertising, with the Commission concluding that they operate as challengers in the market and are relatively small in scale, thus not serving as important gateways for business users. Nevertheless, Microsoft’s social network LinkedIn and its Windows PC OS operating system have been included in the final list of gatekeeper services, with tomorrow’s workshop expected to focus on them.


W/C Monday, 25 March – Commission to present guidelines under DSA, aiming to mitigate election disinformation

This week, the European Commission is also expected to adopt a new set of guidelines, demanding the support of major online platforms like TikTok, X, and Facebook to safeguard the upcoming European elections from disinformation, including in identifying AI-generated content.


These election guidelines will be applicable immediately upon implementation. They will act as a specific application of the Digital Services Act (DSA), focusing on ensuring that Very Large Online Platforms and Search Engines (VLOPs) take targeted actions to protect the integrity of electoral processes. Between 8 February and 7 March, the European Commission was gathering views on the upcoming guidelines, the first to be drafted under Article 35 of the DSA. Among the goals of the DSA is to hold major social media platforms accountable for protecting elections from manipulation and systemic risks.


Under the forthcoming guidelines, VLOPs will be mandated to form specialised teams responsible for monitoring the risks associated with online disinformation in 23 languages throughout the EU. Additionally, platforms will be required to establish rapid response mechanisms and undergo simulation exercises to verify their effectiveness in addressing election-related incidents.


Last month, Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton stated that 2024 was a ‘’pivotal year’’ for elections, stressing the importance of VLOPs to ‘’take measures to mitigate risks related to electoral processes’’. With European Parliament elections scheduled for June and the US presidential elections for November, there is mounting pressure for effective measures to combat disinformation, especially in the face of potential Russian interference.


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