EC's IT Commissioner Nominee Sails Through Hearing

Erkki Liikanen, the Finnish politician nominated to become European Commissioner for information technology, sailed through his three-hour public hearing before the European Parliament's Committee for Industry and Research with flying colors today.

"He gave a solid and reassuring performance," said Imelda Mary (Mel) Read, an influential British member of the EP's Socialist Group.

Read, a specialist in telecom and IT policy, added that "he is a man to use common sense and judgment. Moreover, he is very good at getting the best advice."

This characteristic will be particularly important as electronic commerce and the convergence of the IT, telecom and multimedia sectors make regulatory issues highly complex. During the three hours of questioning, Liikanen said that a careful balance of the existing regulatory environment and self-regulatory efforts is required to ensure that Europe's updated legal framework protects individuals without undermining the development of online world.

Liikanen also revealed that in October he will unveil a broad new program to stimulate IT development in Europe. The plan will represent the Commission's conclusions to its year-long review of telecom liberalization in Europe. He said that the program will involve research, training including linking all primary and secondary schools to the Internet and a review of Europe's attitude to venture capital tofacilitate investments for small high-tech companies.

"We need a massive effort from 2000 with a special effort on small and medium-sized companies," Liikanen stressed.

Following the hearing, however, Liikanen was short on details of either his plans or the financing involved.

"I will get back to you in a couple months," Liikanen told IDG, adding that his plans "involve several components that together could be quite massive."

Liikanen's nomination now goes to the full European Parliament for approval on Sept. 15 in Strasbourg, France, where the institution is expected to confirm the entire Commission membership of Commission President-designate Romano Prodi.

If the EP endorses the new Commission, it will officially take over from the outgoing Commission led by Jacques Santer on Sept. 16. The Santer Commission resigned earlier this year on March 15 over a report that showed evidence of endemic mismanagement. The Santer Commission has acted in a care-taker role since then.

Although Liikanen was a member of the Santer Commission responsible for the budget, he came away with an impeccable personal record.

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