5 +1 MEPs to Watch as the New European Parliament Settles in

By Rayna Stamboliyska - JULY 4, 2024


European Elections, Cyber security

As of July 1, Viktor Orbán is set to take up the rotating presidency of the EU. The presidency will set strategic directions for the coming months while the new Parliament is set up and the new Commission is composed.

The new Parliament will have the hard task of keeping checks and balances, especially as lobbies and Member States all call for a slow-down in adopting tech legislation. Besides, digital matters and cybersecurity were quite absent from the campaign, so it is difficult to gauge if and how the newcomers will get going. Yet, the von der Leyen Commission is not set to stop proposing new legislation. 

Let’s keep in mind that some of the already adopted regulations will also undergo reviews during the 2024-2029 term. Such evaluations happen according to a precise timetable. This often includes an invitation to propose additional legislative measures on subjects that were too immature or too debated when the legislation was negotiated or that have been overtaken by technological, economic, or political developments.

So, we looked for some continuity. A few well-known names return to the Parliament, and we may reasonably assume they will keep track of their pet legislation in the current term.

Here are the five MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) to watch out for.

Bart Groothuis (Renew Europe, the Netherlands)

Bart Groothuis returns to the Parliament for a second term. His first one started a little later than his fellow MEPs: Groothuis entered the European Parliament in February 2020, when Brexit gave his country three extra seats. He debuted with a bang when he became the rapporteur for the NIS2 Directive. During his mandate, he also negotiated several texts on combatting disinformation and a plan to increase the EU’s chip production capacity (the EU Chips Act). You may remember headlines about his revelations about Chinese scanners and opinions on exporting chip-printing gear to China.

Why follow him: The NIS2 Directive imposing cybersecurity, auditing, and incident reporting requirements on critical enterprises and public administrations is being transposed in the Member States (until 17 October 2024). The Commission must re-examine it by 17 October 2027 at the latest and every three years thereafter. Groothuis will undoubtedly be keen to pitch in. A similar fate awaits the EU Chips Act, adopted in 2023 to double chip production in Europe by 2030 and achieve a global market share of 20%. The co-legislators have set a review clause for 20 September 2026 at the latest.

Brando Benifei (S&D, Italy)

First elected in 2014, Brando Benifei is back for a third term. Benifei is perhaps best known as the co-rapporteur of the AI Act alongside Romanian MEP Dragoș Tudorache (who was not reelected for 2024-2029). He says, “One of the greatest challenges today is developing artificial intelligence that respects fundamental rights.” Benifei has famously and tirelessly worked to ensure the now-adopted AI Act prohibits facial recognition, a hotly debated topic during the Act’s negotiations. Benifei even won an award for Best MEP of the mandate for his work on the AI Act.

Why follow him: Brando Benifei focused his campaign on capitalising on his efforts to bring fundamental human rights defence in the nascent AI sector. During his campaign, he pledged to closely monitor the implementation of the AI Act to support further investments in EU companies and “promote the European model of artificial intelligence in the world.” His leitmotiv is that no human is left behind: disruptive technologies must be in the service of humans, not vice versa. And he will have a lot to chew on: the AI Liability Directive is in the works, the newly minted AI Office is starting up, and the Commission plans further legislation on robotics and language systems (expected in 2025).

Henna Virkkunen (EPP, Finland)

Henna Virkkunen returns to the European Parliament for a third term. She was the Industry Committee’s draftswoman on the Digital Services Regulation (DSA). On behalf of the EPP, Virkkunen put forward two major demands: the protection of SMEs and obligations for online marketplaces for imported products, focusing on consumer protection. She is the shadow rapporteur for the soon-to-be-adopted Cyber Resilience Act and recently spoke out on the need for improved cybersecurity in Finland and Europe.

Why follow her: The Cyber Resilience Act is yet to be adopted, but once it is, it will be implemented gradually; the first global evaluation report is not expected until six years after its publication in the Official Journal of the EU – in other words, around 2030. However, after 45 months, the Commission is invited to assess the effectiveness of the single platform for reporting vulnerabilities and cyber incidents affecting the products covered. Besides, Virkkunen may not be an MEP for long: Finland has nominated her as future European Commissioner. Her desired portfolio comprises competitiveness, security and defence. 

Billy KELLEHER (Renew Europe, Ireland) 

First elected in 2019, Billy Kelleher returns to the Parliament for a second term. Although Kelleher is not traditionally seen as an MEP working on digital matters, we decided to feature him in this list because he was the rapporteur for DORA, the legislation ensuring cyber resilience for the financial sector. Kelleher was nuanced and pragmatic throughout the DORA negotiations, ensuring that the final framework “continues to allow institutions to adopt technology” while raising the bar to protect financial services across the EU. He has also been elected as First VP of the Renew Europe group in Parliament.

Why follow him: Kelleher is not a ‘tech MEP’ but a budget MEP. His interests include ESG reporting, financial markets, taxes, and investments. These are not the sexiest topics, but they are among the most important ones, given how many legal frameworks (AI, cyber, semiconductors) will rely on investments to strengthen the EU’s strategic autonomy and position globally. Also, while DORA will apply from 17 January 2025, the Commission has proposed a few other complementing acts that are up for discussion in Parliament, where Kelleher may want to chime in.

Markéta Gregorová (Greens/EFA, Czech Republic) 

First elected in 2019, Markéta Gregorová returns for a second term. The only Pirate MEP for the current term (there were four of them in the previous one), Gregorová is a staunch defender of fundamental liberties in the digital realm and has a particular interest in the Transcaucasian countries and Russia and in the future of warfare and hybrid threats. Gregorová was the co-rapporteur for the NIS2 Directive along with Bart Groothuis and has contributed to the State of European cyberdefence and the special committee for fighting disinformation and foreign interference across the EU.

Why follow her: An activist and proponent of progressive views, Gregorová seeks a stronger, more consolidated approach to EU foreign policy, particularly regarding human rights. We will undoubtedly hear from her as the infamous “chat control” legislation attempts to make strides, endangering encryption in Europe. Gregorová will probably pay attention to the NIS2 Directive revision, crafting other legislation, such as the Cyber Solidarity Act, and continue supporting fundamental rights in the EU neighbourhood.

Aaaand… we decided to include a bonus MEP. Enter Dóra Dávid from Hungary, hailing from the main opposition party to Hungary’s strongman Viktor Orbán.

Dóra Dávid (EPP, Hungary)

A King’s College London and Cambridge graduate, she specialises in competition law, consumer protection and data protection. A Londoner since her teens, Dávid has worked as a legal advisor at Meta since 2020, after three years at StubHub, the ticket resale platform (at the time owned by eBay). She has also worked for various international law firms, companies, and NGOs, and she was a trainee in the legal department of the European Commission.
Why follow her: Interestingly, Dávid is the second Meta employee turning MEP. She is thus joining Aura Salla (Finland), the former head of Meta’s Brussels public policy team, who has also joined the EPP’s ranks. Besides, with Hungary taking over the rotating presidency of the EU, Dávid will be a crucial lawmaker to watch. Finally, a competition law specialist, Dávid will probably have quite a lot on her plate as two major acts are up for revision: the P2B regulation (platform-to-business) and the Digital Markets Act. P2B will be reviewed in January 2025 and is expected to bring about additional transparency requirements for Big Tech. Following suit, the DMA will undergo revision by May 2026 at the latest; the previous Parliament had already stated its wish to add genAI products to a new version of the DMA.

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