Posted by New Statesman
By Xan Rice
On the last day of November 2017, the snow fell in Brussels. By the evening, a crust of white had settled on the crown of Godfrey of Bouillon, the 11th-century crusader whose statue dominates the Place Royale. Not far away, people filed into a concert hall at the Palais des Beaux-Arts, renowned for hosting great conductor-composers such as Stravinsky and Rachmaninov. However, they were not there to listen to music; they had come to hear Margrethe Vestager, the EU commissioner who has been called the “most powerful woman in Europe” and whose mission is to hold to account the world’s biggest technology companies.
Since 2014, the arts centre has hosted an annual series of debates about the future of the EU. These have been notable both for reflecting the sense of crisis on the continent – the themes have been “Reinventing Europe”, “Now or Never”, “Last Chance” and “The End of Europe?” – and for the quality of the speakers, one of whom was Emmanuel Macron, who appeared in 2014 and 2016, while he was France’s economy minister. Vestager, who is 49, shared the stage with Macron both times.