Examination of Witness (Questions 1120
WEDNESDAY 7 JUNE 2000
1120. You have now been working in the meantime
on implementation and setting out the plans on translating this
into specific targets for the review to take place. Are you encountering
from any of the States opposition to particular chapters?
A. My understanding of the reaction, but of
course they are first reactions because we just adopted the plan
ten days ago, is that there is no resistance on issues but there
are obviously issues where Member States are more interested and
want to develop more and then there are issues which do not seem
to attract much interest. I would not say it is resistance. I
think there are also I think a few targets where Member States
seem to say "we may not be able to do this, it is too precise,
too ambitious". At the same time there are other issues where
Member States want us to develop more what is in the plan now
and we will do that.
1121. Am I being a bit unfair if I ask you to
give us a bit more detail on that?
A. Okay. My difficulty now is that the first
time Member States saw this was yesterday.
1122. We had it a while ago. We had advance
A. The first meeting of Member States representatives
on the text to have everybody's comments was yesterday in Lisbon
under the Chairmanship of Mr Cago, the Portuguese Minister. My
information now has been very quick information because some people
only came back late last night and I have been in meetings since
8.30 this morning so you will understand. I can already say from
the comments and the contributions I got before, for example you
see Italy who is particularly interested in e-governance and government
online. They were insistent on having not only government online
for business but also for citizens. They were very interested
in developing that aspect of the plan, that is their particular
interest. From the United Kingdom I got a lot of comments on the
question of competition, price of access to the net, etc. The
French Presidency is very keen on taking up the initiative. I
have had several meetings with them already. They would like some
more development, and this links to one of the questions you are
asking about international aspects, they think we need more visibility
at international level, more action at international level. That
has been my comment from the start. Our priority first was to
build an e-Europe. Surely this is something we will develop more.
Also the French want more emphasis on research, that is they are
saying this is not only a question of creating research networks,
there is also a research issue on developing the needed technologies,
etc. They also want more emphasis on the question of cyber criminality
and they will probably organise a conference on this issue during
their Presidency. We know that we can count on their very active
support for the initiative.
1123. So it is going to be taken forward with
enthusiasm by the French?
A. Oh, yes. Oh, yes. There are certain issues
on the other hand that did not attract the great enthusiasm and,
for example, one is the health issue. It may be a question of
interlocutors, I do not know. It may be that people who are involved
in these issues feel that health is really something for other
specialists. My feeling is it may have to do with the division
of competencies rather than a real lack of interest in that issue.
1124. It really brings us back to the heart
of the issue, how do you co-ordinate, how do you move this all
forward, is it possible to do that?
A. I was told that strangely enough Member States
do not want to see the IDA initiative in there but it does not
change much, the fact that it exists. There are quite a few things
like that. We have taken out, for example, risk capital from our
initiative. We did not keep it in the Action Plan because we thought
it was fairly well covered otherwise. It is not saying that it
is less important as a support for the development of eEurope.
There is just no value added in covering it in this context.
1125. My question was under five and you have
already said there was not a great deal of consultation about
that document because you wished to get the European side first.
You have looked at other countries, especially the USA, are you
happy that when you come to do that that we will be coming more
into line or it will be more possible to associate with America?
A. My feeling is that for the moment it is true
that we have not given the proper visibility to the initiative
at the international level, even though we have started doing
so, for example, with developing countries in the e-development
1126. You looked at America anyway before.
A. In terms of international relationships the
reaction has been a sort of patchwork reaction on certain issues
like frequencies. I think we have been very successful in Istanbul
to secure frequencies for third generation mobile. We have been
very successful in the negotiation on privacy with the Americans,
the data privacy issue. What there has not yet been is full debate
on the whole of the initiative. You must also see that a lot of
those things have to do with internal questions, they are not
necessarily questions that have an international dimension.
1127. To what extent have you confided in Central
European states that will be joining the EU next?
A. There have been debates with these countries.
We are encouraging them to develop similar initiatives on the
basis of our initiative. We are encountering success. Some of
those countries, I cannot remember which ones because it is not
really my field, have started an action plan at the national level
similar to that inspired by our initiative. It does have a positive
hold in that respect and it is certainly used in that context
to encourage them to do that.
1128. Clearly there is a case for a number of
initiatives to be taken at the international level but there is
also a danger sometimes, is there not, that by raising your sights
to international issues you actually take your eye off the ball
of dealing with the pressing urgent issues in plans that have
already been defined in areas for which targets have been set?
Is not one of the dangers that some of the countries are rather
slow to move on liberalisation and this is really needed to actually
get e-commerce moving?
1129. By going for international issues we avoid
addressing those topics.
A. In a sense this is probably the field where
we have been fastest in reacting to Lisbon. We issued in April
a Recommendation on the unbundling of local loop. We have issued
a Communication which clearly says that where Member States refuse
to apply the rules we will act on the competition rules. That
is what we announced last year in the review, the 1999 review,
and certainly we will use it. There is still a question over whether
that Recommendation was sufficient and whether we need a Directive.
My feeling is that it may create legal confusion because we already
have a recommendation which is clear enough, we have a Communication
that explains the competition rules will apply and we have competition
rules and we have the competence to act on the competition rules.
Whether a Directive will add efficiency to the system I am not
sure because a Directive, even if we could adopt one quickly enough,
and I am not excluding that, we could adopt one in the coming
weeks, it has not been decided yet, will need to be adopted by
the Council and Parliament and then be transposed. I am not sure
that this is a very efficient system. My knowledge from certain
Member States is that by then they will all have unbundled. They
do not intend to wait for that. The pressure comes from the national
regulatory authorities who would like first of all to be involved
rather than the Commission to act on the competition rules. I
am still not convinced that we need an additional instrument.
The way we have defined the review of communication policy points
to the direction where we simplify legislation. We announced our
intention to replace the 25/26 Directive by a minimum number of
probably five Directives. Adding another Directive on unbundling
the local loop when we already have an instrument seems superfluous.
I am fairly confident that we are moving fast in this field. I
am not saying the situation is perfect now but I see things moving
rather fast. I see good preparation in the Member States to open.
Chairman: Coming back to the Commission, Lord
Paul had a private session last night with Commissioner Kinnock.
1130. First of all, may I apologise for getting
held up for a couple of minutes.
A. I was too.
1131. Your reform programme is very ambitious
and very good but do you think it will really improve all levels
in the Commission?
A. My portfolio does not cover any administrative
issues and I am rather grateful for that. My personal action in
this is really an action of trying to change the culture of people.
My personal way of working is to try to convince people that they
have an interest in changing the habits of working rather than
having reforms on paper. That is not to criticise the reform on
paper, we certainly need it and I can talk a bit about the peer
review, etc., which I have been following at least with the DGs
I am in charge of. My every day battle, and I am very active in
all the meetings I hold with Cabinets and services, is
to try to not get away from the vertical organisation of the Commission,
because I think you cannot avoid having DGs in charge of external
affairs and DGs in charge of transport, etc., but to convince
people at service level and at Cabinet level that they
should be working in a different way, they should work much more
in a network way and they should understand that when they start
a project they should not wait for the co-ordination to take place
at the end of the day when they have a project fully written.
1132. Do you think dispersing the Cabinets
has been a success or has it, in fact, undermined the objectives?
A. I do not think that is changing much. We
have very good co-operation. We use e-mail enormously. I exchange
an enormous number of e-mails with my colleagues. We use our meetings
to discuss other things. We have co-ordination, etc. I think the
main change in mentality is not so much with Cabinets,
Cabinets are people who work very well together. By the
necessity of things, every time you prepare a Commission meeting
you exchange dozens of phone calls with your collaborators in
other Cabinets and we are used to doing that. It is at
service level that they do not have that instinct at the beginning
of their projects. It would help them gain competencies that they
do not have. For example, the Transport DG is full of experts
on transport but the day they write regulation on the public procurement
of the transport sector, they should not start drafting alone,
they should contact their counterparts in DG MARKT and work with
them from the start. They would gain in the exchange and they
would reach a better project. They would have less problems in
the service consultation, they would create for themselves a personal
network. It is a question of changing the culture and convincing
people that it is not just the procedure but a question of culture.
That is my vision of reforms. I think co-ordination is most important.
1133. Your reputation is very much ahead of
you in trying to do what you want to do and in doing what you
say you want to do.
A. I do not know what reputation I have. I am
a bit worried when I hear you have got a reputation because by
definition you do not know. I do not have a reputation of being
easy, I know.
1134. Last night Commissioner Kinnock was also
saying that he is very much interested in getting all of these
things done. What are the main obstacles that you see?
A. The main obstacle is that people fear change.
There is a natural tendency for people to fear change. A lot of
people in the Commission have been doing the same thing for ten
years, 20 years, and yesterday I met a lady who had been working
on the same very small thing for 22 years and she was very proud
of it and was absolutely terrified at the idea that she would
have to do something else. Obviously she will not be on the street.
My feeling is that of a big resistance. Also maybe we should better
inform people. We do not know exactly where we are going by definition.
We know what our objectives are but we do not really know where
we are going because at the moment we are trying to see what every
DG is doing, what is the balance between their resources and their
tasks. We have been asking all of those DGs to check what they
would give up if they were forced to give up five per cent of
their resources, ten per cent. You must be aware of this exercise.
I find it is a cruel exercise for certain DGs which are obviously
under-staffed where there are core tasks. What is the Commission
all about? To me the Commission should be more about its core
business of internal market, competition, policy issues, rather
than, for example, giving money to thousands of projects. That
is my feeling. When I see the resources of DGs I can see that
the real operation of DGs, like DG Competition, DG Taxation, Customs
DG, the Internal Market. They are small DGs even though they are
in charge of core business while DGs Enterprise, Research, part
of Information Society are huge DGs, they have hundreds of people
managing programmes and the question is what is the value added
of some of those programmes.
1135. If you had the freedom to do anything
you wanted in the next six months, what would be the most important
things in your mind as the priorities that you would do?
A. In the reform?
1136. If you were completely in charge, yes.
A. Does that stay here? I do not know. I would
scrap some of DG Enterprise. I would take out from DG Enterprise
the operational part, which is the internal market aspect, and
put it in DG MARKT because there is no reason why the internal
market for goods should be in DG Enterprise. I think there is
a whole part of that DG that is actually defending traditional
sectors of the economy that have had very powerful lobbies and
want the Commission to do sectoral studies which could be done
at a sectoral level. There are sectoral federations at sectoral
levels that could very well do this, we do not need to defend
specific sectoral interests. We should take account in horizontal
policies, of their impact on different sectors. That does not
exclude taking account of the fact that when we propose Directives
in the environment this has an impact on the chemistry sector
but I am not sure we need a chemistry unit to tell us. I am being
very frank, maybe, as usual, too frank.
Lord Paul: It is nice to hear this.
1137. We will make you feel better.
A. When I say "scrap", obviously this
is a very extreme idea.
A. Re-organise. I also think that we should
rethink a lot of our research programme. For example, in the eEurope
initiative we mention the need for a research network. I think
there would be much stronger leverage of Community funds if we
were to use Community funds to create networks that benefit all
researchers, all universities, all research institutions, than
giving money here and there to hundreds of small projects. We
could help them by the infrastructure to work together rather
than financing their co-operation. It would be much less costly
in terms of management. You would not have people who spend all
their year managing six projects, 12 projects, with pressure from
specific interest groups.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester
1139. This is very much on this sort of theme.
We saw the E-Commerce Minister had an evidence session three weeks
ago, Mrs Hewitt, and she argued then that the Industry and Internal
Market Councils should be brought together and turned into a Competition
A. I saw that question.