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“Europe will not catch up with the United States without foreign experts”

“Europe will not catch up with the United States without foreign experts”

Mark Hallberg “Europe will not catch up with the United States without foreign experts”

American Fiona Scott Morton wanted to become chief economist at the European Union’s competition authority. After protests from France, she has now retired from her post

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American Fiona Scott Morton is stepping down as Senior Adviser to the European Union. The economist’s resistance came from France in particular. American political scientist Mark Hallerberg sees this as a fatal signal

Capital: Mr. Hallerberg, the American Fiona Scott Morton has withdrawn her candidacy for the position of Chief Economist at the European Union Competition Authority. What seems like a personal matter is much discussed in Brussels and harshly criticized by many – including you. Why?
Mark Hallerberg: The job description didn’t specifically exclude Americans from applying. Ms. Scott Morton is one of the most experienced economists in the field, a professor at Yale University, and a former advisor to big tech companies – and has advised President Obama on regulatory issues. No wonder she triumphed in the application process. Then some politicians, especially from France, noticed that she was American. The passport should not be a reason for her not getting the job. He must decide to rehabilitate – and Mrs. Scott Morton certainly would have.

Critics say that having an American in this position would conflict with Europe’s “strategic autonomy” – and thus the US could influence European politics. Is this correct?
In this specific case: no. Mrs. Scott Morton’s position provided advice and did not give her direct decision-making power.

However, Scott Morton should not have advised on cases against Apple and Amazon, for example, because she had previously advised those two companies herself. Weren’t you some kind of “lame duck” in this situation?
On the one hand, this is true. On the other hand, that was already evident during the application process – and yet Mrs. Scott Morton reigned there.

Mr. Hallerberg, you yourself are an American. Perhaps your government will not allow any European such an attitude either. Why should it be the other way around?
I get the point, but this isn’t particularly smart from the US either. But there is a fundamental difference: Europe lags far behind the United States in terms of digitization and technology. There are enough qualified employees like Mrs. Scott Morton. Europe will never catch up with America and China if only Europeans are accepted. Personally, I think this is very unfortunate: I’ve lived in Europe for 15 years, I love the continent and think Europe has a lot to offer.

As an American scholar, do you still feel comfortable in Europe? Do politicians listen to you?
This depends on where you are. I have to give special praise to Germany here. I experience German politics and German politics as very cosmopolitan. I know quite a few members of the Bundestag and have often been in different ministries. I’ve spoken before Bundestag committees and it’s always been about the content – not about my nationality. But I remember, for example, a European commission to which countries sent various experts. Three French came from France, a German, an Italian, and me from Germany. This is just one example, but it shows that qualifications are important in Germany, not nationality.