Members of the European parliament on Wednesday hailed EU anti-trust commissioner Margrethe Vestager as a “superheroine” for handing US tech giant Apple a EUR 13 billion tax bill in Ireland.
For more than one hour during a debate about her August 30 ruling, almost all of the 30 MEPs who took the floor congratulated Vestager, a Danish politician with a steely reputation who smiled, took notes with a pink pen and thanked the speakers.
“When I was young in the 1970s, there was a television series, ‘the six million dollar man,'” Dutch liberal politician Cora van Nieuwenhuizen told her. “This superhero has been surpassed by a superheroine, the EUR 13 billion ($15 billion) commissioner!”
Philippe Lamberts, the Belgian co-president of the Green Party, also offered effusive praise.
“As an ecologist, I am opposed to human cloning, and yet, when I see you, I really want multiple Margrethe Vestagers,” Lamberts said.
More compliments flowed from politicians like French socialist Pervenche Beres, who made her point raising her iPhone 6.
“We are all drugged, intoxicated by these machines. However, we are overjoyed that you have so severely punished this company,” Beres said.
German ecologist Sven Giegold chimed in, saying: “We should give you a prize.”
In announcing the ruling, Vestager said that Apple had received favourable tax terms that amounted to state aid – illegal under its rules – and ordered Ireland to collect the back taxes.
The ruling has angered Apple as well as the US and Irish governments. Ireland plans to challenge the ruling amid fears that accepting the windfall could scare away international investment and undermine a reputation for business-friendliness.
It came amid growing tensions between Washington and Brussels over a series of EU anti-trust investigations led by Vestager targeting other giant US companies such as Google, Amazon, McDonald’s, Starbucks and Fiat Chrysler.
The daughter of two Lutheran ministers, Vestager is known for her no-nonsense style. And those who know her warn that she is a formidable negotiator who never gives up.
Sometimes nicknamed back home as “Margrethe III,” an allusion to Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II, she became her country’s first woman minister, at the age of 29, when she was named in 1998 to the education and ecclesiastical affairs portfolio.
And under her leadership, her party doubled its performance in the 2011 parliamentary elections.