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EC reshuffle bumps Kroes out of antitrust seat

Antitrust regulator Neelie Kroes is moving to take charge of the European digital agenda, while telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding heads for a justice office
Written by Karen Friar, Contributor on

Competition commissioner Neelie Kroes and telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding will take on new duties in a European Commission lineup announced by Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso on Friday.

Kroes is designated to be the digital agenda commissioner, with oversight of the European Network and Information Security Agency (Enisa) and the Information Society Directorate General, which supports IT activities. As such, she is responsible for increasing online access to content, and the digital economy. She has also been named a vice president of the European College, the group of all the commissioners.

At the start of her five years as competition commissioner, Kroes handled the EU's antitrust investigation into Microsoft. The probe ended in a €497m (£451m) fine for the software giant, which was also required to share information on its server products with its competitors. Her office was also behind an investigation into Intel that resulted in a €1bn fine for the chipmaker. 

Recently, Kroes has been in charge of the antitrust investigations into Oracle's purchase of Sun and into Microsoft's browser bundling.

Kroes is being replaced as competition commissioner by Joaquín Almunia, a Spaniard who was previously commissioner for economic and financial affairs with responsibility for economic policy and the euro.

In her new role, Kroes is taking over from Viviane Reding, who is moving from the Commission for Information Society and Media to the Commission for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. Reding is also being made a vice president of the European College.

Reding helped shepherd through the Telecoms Reform Package, which was dogged by a debate over whether countries should be allowed to cut off broadband service for persistent file-sharers — the 'three strikes' provision. The package aimed to improve number porting and data-breach notification, among other goals. In addition, Reding played a part in the debate over behavioural advertising company Phorm, saying the UK government had failed to protect its citizens' privacy, and in the ongoing tussle with Google over book digitisation.

The commissioners must now gain approval from the European Parliament in January before taking up their new offices. Barroso nominated a total of 26 commissioners, including nine women, and appointed seven vice presidents in total.

Britain's Baroness Catherine Ashton, the new European foreign minister, will be the first of the European College to act as stand in for Barroso when necessary.

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