EU calling for Google to be broken up

The European Parliament was debating Wednesday whether to call for the break-up of Internet giant Google in a symbolic resolution that has nevertheless worried the United States.

MEPs assembled in Strasbourg were set to debate a resolution calling on the EU to order search engines to separate commercial services from their businesses to ensure a level playing field.

While Google is not directly mentioned in the proposal, the California-based search engine is clearly the target.

A vote on the resolution is to take place Thursday.

In a statement, the US mission to the European Union said it had “noted with concern” the parliament resolution.

“It is important that the process of identifying competitive harms and potential remedies be based on objective and impartial findings and not be politicised,” a spokesman for the US mission said.

The European Parliament has no power to launch the break-up of Google, but the move by two senior lawmakers is further indication that opinion of the company in Europe has soured.

Google has become an increasing source of worry for European officials on many issues ranging from privacy to the protection of national publishers.

While EU law cannot directly affect US law it can however affect Google’s business in Europe, where it is even more widely used than in the United States.

Since 2010, Google has been under investigation by the European Commission in response to complaints that its search engine, the world’s biggest, was squeezing out competitors in Europe.

Google and Brussels have also clashed over the so-called “right to be forgotten”, in which the EU’s top court ruled last year that people had a right to ask search engines to delete results involving them after a period of time.

The parliament debate falls as the commission, the EU’s executive arm, begins a new five year term, with former Luxembourg premier Jean-Claude Juncker at its helm.

The new competition commissioner, Denmark’s Margrethe Vestager, has said she would look at the sensitive case carefully, but the resolution will be added pressure for her to move quickly.

Weeks before stepping down, Vestager’s predecessor, Joaquin Almunia, sharply criticised the “irrational” response by European politicians to the Brussels investigation of Google.

Google and Almunia had made three attempts to resolve the dispute, but in each case intense pressure by national governments, Internet rivals and privacy advocates scuppered the effort.

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EU calling for Google to be broken up