Experts may have mixed feelings about Neelie Kroes’ record as EU Digital chief. Yet it would be hard for them to question her efforts to bring the ‘digital cause’ to prominence among European leaders and the public opinion alike. That is precisely why the new European Commission needs to keep her on board.
In her five-year-long crusade, Mrs Kroes managed to forge a powerful narrative around the vital importance of information and communication technologies for Europe’s present and future prosperity. That message is eventually being heard in the political circles.
It still has to be translated into bolder legislative efforts. The new European executive has openly pledged to accomplish this daunting job, notably by putting emphasis on completing the digital single market. Against this background, Mrs Kroes’ diplomatic and communicative skills can be very helpful. Her forward-looking vision too. Mr Juncker should consider appointing her to a newly created job of EU Digital Ambassador.
He may look to a successful initiative launched by Mrs Kroes herself, namely the creation of national ‘digital champions’, to have an idea of how the role would work.
Digital Champions are high-profile public figures tasked with advocating a digital inclusive society: they also advise governments on promoting e-skills in education, fostering e-government services, encouraging digital entrepreneurship, supporting businesses to embrace new technologies, boosting research and innovation. Mrs Kroes, who is soon to become the Netherlands Special Envoy for Startups, would be the ideal candidate to impersonate this role at European level.
Messrs Ansip and Oettinger, who took over the EU digital portfolio from her, have much to gain too. Mrs Kroes could help them build the public and political consensus required to pass very sensitive reforms: from copyright to, say, radiopectrum management.