Interview with Anouk van der Veer, junior researcher

Anouk van der Veer

My name is Anouk van der Veer. After obtaining my master’s in corporate law at Utrecht University last year, I was still eager to study and wanted to learn more about competition law and the economic foundations of regulation. I am, therefore, currently obtaining my second master’s degree in Law & Economics. Last September, I was appointed as a part-time junior researcher at UUCePP. In addition, I have been the student assistant of Elisabetta Manunza since January.

Besides this legal existence, I enjoy cycling, creative activities, such as making photo books and postcards, baking healthy cakes and taking dance classes. Currently, I am taking online ballet classes at Broadway Dance Center in New York, which is the school where I took classes in ballet, theatre, jazz and contemporary for a few months in 2019. I consider it a small advantage of the corona pandemic that I can take the classes of my favourite teachers in the Netherlands again.

What are you working on, and why?

In September, I started working on a study for the Ministry of Justice and Security about the rethinking of the Dutch lottery legislation for 2021. The overarching question is to what extent the legislation is in line with European law. This issue is challenging because the EU is not competent to regulate gambling. However, it still influences – although indirectly via the internal market rules – how the Member States have to regulate gambling.

Member States restrict the free movement of services, which includes lotteries, by imposing restrictions that pursue public interest objectives, such as limiting crime and gambling addiction. In this regard, the challenge is to assess the extent to which these restrictions can be justified by certain public interest objectives.

In this research, I am given a lot of responsibilities, which allows me to learn a lot about the work of a researcher. Also, by working on a research project in which UUCePP and Renforce colleagues are working together (Elisabetta Manunza, Sybe de Vries and Willem Janssen), I obtain a good picture of the research lines within the Law Faculty. In addition to my work for this research, I am closely involved in Elisabetta Manunza’s work as her assistant by supporting her in projects, research and publications.

What makes you get out of bed in the morning? And is this different because of the COVID-19 crisis?

I am truly enjoying the things I am doing at the moment. The courses in the Law & Economics master’s strongly appeal to me and the work for UUCePP is very interesting, so I get up happy every morning to start the day. During the weekend, after I have slept through the morning, I like to get up for a nice breakfast with a good cup of coffee and a newspaper.

The corona crisis has not changed much in this regard. The only difference is the time my alarm goes off as the travel time from my bed to my desk is not as much as it is to university.

Is there nevertheless something you appreciate in these changing circumstances?

I appreciate two things in particular. First of all, I appreciate the feeling of solidarity and the helping hand people give to each other. I will remember the corona crisis by the outspoken support for the hard-working people in the healthcare sector, initiatives in my neighbourhoods to support the lonely elderly, the bond built through working from home with neighbours and strengthened with my roommates and friends, and that my close friends had sent ‘get well soon’ postcards to my grandmother who was recovering from corona.

Second, I appreciate the growing attention to sustainability. Since the corona crisis pauses many human activities, it becomes clear how much we contribute to and can do to stop climate change. Working from home, banning flights and reducing international trade are visibly reducing emissions, improving air quality and cleaning the waters. Surprisingly, it also took a crisis like this to make the world leaders realise that they do not need to fly to the climate summit, but that climate change can just as well be discussed online.

Should we go back to our old way of life after the crisis, or not?

In line with my answer to the previous question, I hope that 'the new normal' becomes a sustainable new normal. A crisis is the time for change and redesign. This crisis has brought incredible changes in such a short period of time to the possibilities of working from home, digital education and online participation in conferences that would otherwise have taken years. The positive effects of these changes on the environment are visible. Hopefully, we go back to our old way of life in a more sustainable manner.

In this regard, procurement law, and especially UUCePP with its research on this topic, plays a crucial role. Sustainable procurement is an ambition for both the EU and the Netherlands. With an annual expenditure of approximately € 70 to 140 billion (the value depends on the definition of public procurement) on procurement, the Dutch government can use procurement to achieve environmental objectives and set an example for the Dutch population. Moreover, sustainable procurement does not have to be compensated afterwards. Unfortunately, in my opinion, sustainable procurement is currently often stuck at being an ambition. Apparently, stricter regulation is required to actually induce purchasing organizations towards more sustainable purchasing.

What is your biggest ambition?

My biggest ambition is to contribute to the European policy on Big Tech. The European Commission is investigating platforms and legislative proposals, without having a complete understanding of the competition between and the functioning of these platforms on the market. While there is a belief that data is the crucial product for these platforms, I wrote my first master's thesis on the attention market in which online platforms trade their users’ attention with advertisers. My master's thesis this year will be a follow-up and aims at providing a theory on the competition between and the functioning of these platforms to, eventually, answer the question of what means – if at all – are appropriate to deal with Big Tech. My ultimate ambition is to combine both themes in a dissertation and contribute to the debate in that way.

Which book has impressed you the most, has shaped you, and would you read 100 more times? And why?

The book that has impressed me most last year is ‘Verdrink geen dooie eend’ (Don’t drown a dead duck), written by lawyer Marry de Gaay Fortman. In her book, she takes the reader along on the experiences of a young woman becoming a lawyer, partner and managing partner. She shares her experiences as a woman in a man's world. By not drowning dead ducks, by which she means not to focus on the negative, she teaches the reader to move beyond pointing out someone’s mistakes, and, instead, focus on achieving the common goal. The way Marry has dealt with certain situations, her self-reflection and her attitude to life is enormously inspiring and educational, for both men and women.

There is another book that I would also recommend to anyone (in addition to several other UUCePP researchers): ‘Feitenkennis’ (Knowledge of Facts), written by Hans Rosling. This book shows that our picture of the world is wrong, and things are way better than we assume. For example, answer the following questions: (1) how many one-year-old children in the world are now vaccinated against a disease (in %)? (2) Has the proportion of the world's population living in extreme poverty doubled, remained roughly the same or halved in the last 20 years? (3) How many people in the world have some access to electricity?

The answers are (1) 80%, (2) halved and (3) 80%. This book feeds optimism and teaches us to look at the world more hopefully.