This piece originally appeared in Pirate Wires.
From the street, one could easily miss the nondescript building that houses the Irish Consulate just east of Union Square in San Francisco. People subjecting themselves to the massive European bureaucracy required to renew passports and visas are totally unaware that behind the main consular area sits a unique entity. A small sign is the only indication that the consulate also hosts the offices of Gerard de Graaf, the European Union’s “ambassador” to Silicon Valley.
A career bureaucrat, de Graaf has worked on information and communications tech policy for the European Commission since 1991. After focusing on standards regimes and cybersecurity for a while, de Graaf rose to prominence as the man behind the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act. According to the EU, these two new laws are intended “to keep the Internet safe, protect fundamental rights and enhance competition in digital markets.” In reality, they’re protectionist regulations designed to punish American tech giants in an attempt to bring Europe’s tech industry back from the dead.
Ostensibly established to aid tech companies’ compliance with these new competition rules, de Graaf’s new outpost symbolizes an unsettling collaboration between two giants. In addition to taking part in pride parades and celebrating Europe Day at City Hall (who knew that was a thing?), de Graaf and his team facilitate transatlantic dialogue with tech CEOs, scholars, and, most importantly, state officials.