ICTs for Europe

The hearings for the various European Commissioners were held last week. Our Dutch representative Neelie Kroes (known from her ferocious busting of Microsoft’s balls) was given a hard time mainly due to political getting back from the Christian and Socialist European fractions for the grilling of their candidates.

Kroes is slated to be the European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda. Thought by some to be a lightweight portfolio, we in the internet business know that it is of course at the heart of most important things: media, science, trade, communication.

Baroso’s brief is as follows (in part):

  • You will take the lead in preparing the European Digital Agenda, to promote an integrated ICT policy framework, addressing both supply and demand for digital services, products and contents, ensuring that Europe remains at the technological forefront in this area.
  • The EU needs high speed internet networks to realise the potential of ICTs. Therefore, I would like you to elaborate a policy framework to promote investment in high speed internet and set up a coordinated spectrum policy.
  • I would also like you to establish an integrated single market for the delivery of electronic services. The EU possesses massive creative, cultural and multilingual potential, which efficient ICT tools can help to tap and transform into productivity gains.
  • Europe must also invest in the ICT skills of its citizens. Your role will be to avoid a ‘digital divide’ and to give the possibility to all citizens to acquire e-skills.
  • (Mission Statement)

Her answers to the questions are here in Dutch1, you may be able to find documents in other languages at the main site for the hearings.

I’d read about the question session and the next day Dutch public television put this debriefing with her online:

In one interview she kept saying something about ‘ICTs’ (Maarten said it sounded something like the interwebs) and in the above fragment she excells in vagueness. A lot of criticism on her has been indeed focused on her grasp of the field and her plans for the Digital Agenda which were termed weak.
More video here and audio about the second term this week.

The other criticism that she would not be a champion of the consumer but would take side with the big companies put forward by the Euro Socialists is frankly ludicrous (Dennis de Jong is our Dutch socialist —say no— representative), if you look at her record battling Microsoft.

Dutch pride of having at least one Commissioner in the EC is nice and all, but it would be nice for Europe to have a commissioner for the Digital Agenda who would actually use the internet? One who has at least a first hand idea what this stuff is about.

Given the vast out of touch Kafka-esque bureaucratic monstrosity that is the European Union, putting somebody in charge of the internet who both has a clue to the subject matter and can navigate the treacherous passages of European politics may be too much to hope for. Given that, Kroes may be a very good second and if she displays the same fervor to promote an open internet as she did attacking Microsoft, she may not be that bad at all.

Update: Today’s hearings went a lot better and it looks like she will get the post for Euro Commissioner for the Digital Agenda:

Update: And now it is almost a done deal according to this post on NOS.nl where they also mention that her advanced age may not make her the most suitable candidate for an internet portfolio.

  1. Which I of course did not get around to reading yet.

One thought on “ICTs for Europe”

  1. I’m happy with this appointment (presuming it goes through).

    The major problem in this area so far is not just cluelessness all around, but a tepid position. Lobbyists and big corporations have managed to bully the EU into passing silly laws, and the tireless efforts of the FFII and other professionals in the computer industry have had to put heavy pressure on the EU to stem the tide.

    Neelie Kroes isn’t tepid, and I assume she has a healthy sense of skepticism for anything big corporations say. She’s also been confronted with internet and computer related issues in her past job – no doubt the general concept of the web has come up plenty of times whilst confronting microsoft.

    Furthermore, The very competent D’66 euro crew seems to want this. Could be self-serving (VVD and D’66 both play for the same team in euro-politics: ALDE), but in other situations VVD and D’66 don’t like each other this much generally. I voted for Sophie in ‘t Veld ~6 years ago because she was clearly against software patents. Her support of Kroes goes a long way to convincing me this is good news.

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