Neelie Kroes ‘not fit to be European Commissioner’

27 September 2004

Neelie Kroes ‘not fit to be European Commissioner’


The Dutch government should withdraw the candidature for the European Commission of former government minister Neelie Kroes, according to Dutch Socialist Party MEP Erik Meijer. Mr Meijer, one of the 41-strong United Left Group (GUE-NGL), argues that “an ever-growing list of complaints about Ms Kroes’s past has cast doubt on her independence and integrity.” He cites Evidence regarding incorrect conduct surrounding the sale of six ships during her presidency of an export board as being “enough to prove that Kroes placed her own interests above the general good”.

Next Tuesday, 28 September, Kroes will be questioned at a hearing as the European Parliament exercises its right to vet the men and women nominated by the member state governments for membership of the European Union’s unelected executive. Mr Meijer, being from the same country as the nominee, will be allowed by his GUE-NGL colleagues to take his group’s first turn in the round of questions. He will use that opportunity, having given his reasons, quite simply to ask the Commissioner-designate to withdraw her candidacy. His colleague in the SP’s 8-strong national parliamentary group, Harry van Bommel, has already asked Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende if he is prepared to withdraw the nomination.

Mr Meijer explained to Spectre that “Numerous questions regarding Kroes’s past favouring of firms were not, at the time that they were raised, fully investigated, due to the fact that she no longer held political office. Now that the government has nominated Kroes for the position of European Commissioner, these questions have once again become relevant. We find it incomprehensible that the government has not at the very least ordered a thorough enquiry. A Commissioner for competition policy is responsible for ensuring that firms trade honestly. It is remarkable that the government thinks someone suitable for such a post who has herself acted in a controversial fashion,” Meijer said.

One example is the “frigate case”. In 1994 Kroes was president of a consortium which was charged by the Dutch public authorities with promoting the country’s products abroad. The consortium was given responsibility for the sale of six frigates to the United Arab Emirates. But when the sale was almost complete, Kroes brought in a friend of hers, Joop van Calderbergh, to close the deal. Van Calderbergh’s interest seems to have been largely in promoting the involvement of his own company, mentioning in a letter that he felt a joint venture should be established in a “country with a favourable tax climate” and also suggesting ways of evading OPEC export quotas. Perhaps because of this latter suggestion, the result of van Calderbergh’s intervention seems to have been that the deal fell through, costing the Netherlands over a billion euros in export business. According to Harry van Bommel, the letter “provoked outrage, both on the part of those involved on the Dutch side and amongst the negotiators of the UAE.”

What made this worse was that Kroes denied that she had pushed Joop van Caldenborgh to the fore in the negotiations and refused to admit any culpability over the lost sales. These denials were reported in 1999 in numerous newspapers and in the current affairs TV programme Nova. Yet the SP has in its possession the letter from Kroes in which she recommends Van Caldenborgh to the purchasers. Meijer, not surprisingly, describes himself as “perplexed by the government’s persistence with Kroes’s candidature.”

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