Thursday, September 02, 2004

Nickel Neelie the Board Lady

The new chief regulator of the EU, Dutch Neelie Kroes is usually described as a business-friendly economic liberal. We shall see what her credentials are in that respect but she is certainly somebody to whom business is friendly.

Ms Kroes sits on the supervisory boards of Swedish truck maker Volvo AB, French defence company Thales SA, Dutch real-estate company Corio NV, the Dutch unit of Lucent Technologies Inc, Dutch communications company New Skies Satellites NV, the Dutch railway Nederlands Spoorwegen NV and the Dutch transportation company P&O Nedloyd NV. Perhaps she ought to have been given the transport portfolio.

On top of that she is chairman of the supervisory board at consultancy MeyerMonitor and chairman of airline organization Nederlands Luchtvaart Overleg. But she has stepped down from two boards: she is no longer a non-executive director of mm02 PLC or on the supervisory board of the Dutch constructions company, Ballast Nedam NV.

Why she has resigned from the second one is not clear but over mm02 she was about to face some unpleasant questioning by the European Parliament. There is a case pending against the company, as in July Mario Monti, the present Competitions Commissioner, alleged that it had imposed “unfair and excessive” charges for foreign mobile phones to use its network. Ms Kroes was, of course, at the time one of the non-executive directors, so it has been suggested that she ought not judge the pending case.

Ms Kroes has promised that she will step down from all her existing posts before taking office as Competitions Commissioner. Obviously, someone has explained to her, if not to her Danish colleague over at Agriculture, the concept of clashing interests.

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