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A spat in Brussels pits an open vision of Europe against an insular one

Americans are everywhere you look in Europe these days, sweltering as they queue for tourist attractions in the midst of a heatwave. One place where they are apparently not welcome is Brussels. A proposal by the European Commission to appoint an American citizen, Fiona Scott Morton, as chief economist to its competition arm fell through on July 19th. After a week of French-led protests at the idea of une Américaine! advising the eu’s executive arm in its trust-busting efforts, the Yale professor said she was no longer interested. What could have been a signal of admirable European openness to the world has instead underlined the growing influence of those who think the continent needs a more insular, Europe-first approach.

Ms Scott Morton’s appointment on July 11th had been something of a coup for the commission and its chief competition enforcer, Margrethe Vestager. Anti-trust regulation is a niche field, and Ms Scott Morton one of its more recognised wonks, keen to advance the interests of consumers while preserving open markets and innovation. The hiring of foreign nationals by governments anywhere is rare, and unthinkable in America. Ms Scott Morton landing the job as the result of a competitive process made the eu look quietly confident, a place happy to bring in the best and the brightest regardless of their passport. In a world dominated by American tech firms, why not tap one of their compatriots (and a one-time official in the Obama administration) for insights? The eu is about to get sweeping new policing powers over digital giants; America in recent years has refreshed its thinking on regulating antitrust as it too has started taking on Big Tech.

Source: The Economist