The European Union will act to better regulate big tech companies and vaccine producers, the president of the European Commission said on Tuesday.
Speaking online at the Davos Agenda Week of the World Economic Forum, Ursula von der Leyen promised the bloc would act in three main areas in coming years: ensure vaccine supplies, regulate social media platforms, and enhance climate neutrality.
Based on the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU will propose a bio-defense preparedness program to identify new health risks and finance research to tackle them.
The program is supposed to "bring together the innovation and capability of the private sector, and the long-term vision and predictable funding of the public sector," von der Leyen explained.
The EU is also planning to set up a vaccine export transparency mechanism to control the trade of drugs produced in Europe, she said.
This step was taken after several firms announced delays in COVID-19 vaccine shipments to the bloc.
Von der Leyen reminded the pharmaceutical companies to respect their contracts since the EU invested early in their research and helped build up their capacities.
REGULATING BIG TECH
The top EU official also warned of the threats that the business models of big tech companies pose to democracy.
"The economic laws of social media are eating away at the fabric of our society, and […] fake news, driven by algorithms, spread six times faster than real news," she said.
Von der Leyen pointed to the storming of Capitol Hill as an example of the "darker sides of the digital world."
"In a world where polarizing opinions are the loudest, it is a short step from crude conspiracy theories to the death of a police officer," she said.
Based on the EU's existing digital regulations, she invited US President Joe Biden to join forces with the bloc and set up a digital economy rulebook.
The cross-border regulation would draw on human rights, pluralism and inclusion, and cover data protection and privacy rules, as well as the security of critical infrastructure, she said.
Von der Leyen also welcomed Biden's decision to rejoin the Paris Agreement.
She announced a plan to soon put forward a European legislation proposal to boost sustainable corporate governance.
With the European Green Deal, the bloc decided to be the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.
The new laws would "ensure that the EU market does not drive deforestation on the other side of the world," she said.