Commissioner-Designate Neelie Kroes is facing difficulties following her Hearing last Thursday. Competition Commissioner throughout the last European Parliament mandate, Ms Kroes, a member of the Liberal Group from Holland, has been given the digital agenda portfolio by Commission President, Jose Manuel Barosso.
Ms Kroes had a reputation as a strong Commissioner when she held the Competition brief. I therefore expected her to breeze through her Hearing this time. She is, after all, the woman who stood up to new technology giant Microsoft. For many years, Microsoft tied its ‘Internet Explorer’ web browser to its ‘Windows’ computer operating system. Concerned that – given Microsoft’s dominance of the PC operating system market – this deprived consumers of choice and resulted in fewer innovative products, Ms Kroes set about opening up the market.
The initiative proved successful and in October 2009, Microsoft offered commitments to remove this barrier to competition. No mean achievement for the EU in general and Ms Kroes in particular.
After such a feat you would have thought a Hearing before MEPs, albeit on a different portfolio, would have presented no problems at all. But this was not the case.
I went to the part of the Hearing which concerned the Culture and Education Committee dealing with cultural diversity and media pluralism. I did, in fact, ask Ms Kroes how she would go about securing futher pluralism in the media and lessening the concentration of media outlets in the hands of certain individuals and corporations. I have to say, she didn’t seem to understand the question and gave a less than adequate reply.
Mine was not the only question mishandled. Ms Kroes, in addition, did not appear interested in the UNESCO Convention on the protection and promotion of cultural diversity, which the EU is signed up to.
We have not, so far, rejected Ms Kroes, but she is to be re-interviewed tomorrow. I will be bringing you an update as soon as I possibly can.