Neelie Kroes of the Netherlands has been nominated to replace Mario Monti as Competition Commissioner of the European Union. Her appointment is subject to approval by the European Parliament and, if approved, Kroes is due to begin her term on November 1.
Kroes has a strong background in economics. She was the Dutch Transport Minister for the liberal WD party from 1982-1989, and negotiated the significant US-Dutch aviation agreement which set in motion the liberalisation of the aviation industry. Kroes is currently serving on the boards of several companies, including MMO2 Plc, Volvo AB, Lucent Technologies Inc. and Royal P&O Nedlloyd NV. Given her experience in private industry, it is anticipated that she will be more sensitive to the real-world challenges that businesses face than her predecessor, Monti, who implemented an aggressive enforcement agenda which was sometimes criticised by the business community as lacking that perspective. Kroes has been described by former Competition Commissioner Karel Van Miert as a go-getting, "tough lady who will behave in an independent and coherent way" and who "will be able to bring her experience in business and politics to stand up to political pressures."
Kroes will be taking up the EU's Competition portfolio during a period of dynamic change. Her responsibilities will include overseeing the implementation of the Modernisation programme, pursuant to which Member States' national competition authorities are charged with greater responsibility for antitrust enforcement and intra-European cooperation, and significant changes to the EU merger review regime. She will also face the challenges associated with maintaining the balance of power in the newly-enlarged 25 member EU, with France and Germany already calling for greater control over EU antitrust policy at the national level after Mario Monti blocked politically-backed mergers such as Schneider Electric SA's bid for Legrand SA, and ordered the repayment of billions of euros of State aid paid out by these countries to ailing firms. Kroes will also assume responsibility for defending her predecessor's earlier actions in the pending appeals against the Commission's recent infringement decision against Microsoft Corp., and the Commission's blocking of the proposed merger between General Electric Co. and Honeywell International Inc.