Home & Office

Kroes to uphold net neutrality in Europe

Outgoing EU competition commissioner Neelie Kroes has been setting out plans for her next role: running Europe's digital agenda
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Net neutrality and free online expression will be protected by the European Commission, according to prospective digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes.

On Thursday, at a confirmation hearing for the digital agenda post, Kroes [pictured] told a committee that ISPs "shouldn't be allowed to limit the access to service or content out of commercial motivation, but only in cases of security issues and spamming".

The Dutch politician also came out against attempts to stifle discontent in cyberspace, saying that moves such as China's alleged attacks on Google violate freedom of expression, according to a report on the hearings from the Commission.

Outgoing competition commissioner Kroes, who took on technology giants such as Microsoft and Intel, is in line to take over much of Viviane Reding's portfolio running Europe's technology policy.

Europe's new commissioners-designate are being quizzed on their plans for their new portfolios, in the run-up to an approval vote by members of the European Parliament on 26 January.

Reding, the commissioner for information society and media who forced EU mobile operators to drastically cut their roaming rates and reformed a vast section of telecoms regulation, is set to become the commissioner for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship.

If confirmed for her new role, Reding will continue to influence digital policy as she tackles the issue of data protection. Her former brief is being reorganised to exclude media policy. It will focus on information society and overseeing the European Network and Information Security Agency (Enisa).

Asked whether she wanted to create an EU cyberspace regulator, Kroes said she would rather see a strengthening of the role of Enisa.

On the subject of intellectual property rights, she criticised the patchwork of copyright laws that is in place across Europe, saying that "no proper action is possible while there is no single market".

The committee also asked whether Kroes intends to introduce a third round of legislation to impose mobile roaming cuts. "It would be ideal if there would be a single EU roaming market without borders," she responded.

However, any new legislation would have to follow two reviews of Reding's roaming laws: an interim review due this year and a definitive review due next year.

Kroes also said she wanted to see "100 percent broadband availability" across the EU, as this would "improve competitiveness and bring an excellent opportunity to create jobs, higher productivity and economic growth".

Although she was selected by Commission president José Manuel Barroso to be the new digital agenda commissioner, Kroes's appointment is not certain. According to reports on Monday, she may be called back for a second hearing, following lawmakers' dissatisfaction with her performance on Thursday. However, Kroes's spokesman Jonathan Todd said she had not been approached about a reappearance.

"Neelie has written to the relevant committee chairpeople this morning underlining her commitment to work closely with the European Parliament and her commitment to the digital agenda," Todd said on Monday. "For the moment, she still hasn't heard from them exactly what they want to do."

When the European Parliament votes on 26 January, it will have to confirm or reject the entire new Commission. It does not have the power to veto specific commissioners.

Editorial standards