Goodbye Neelie, hello Günther, Andrus and Jyrki: it's all change for Europe's Digital Agenda

It'll soon be time to bid our final farewells to Neelie Kroes, the intrepid European Commission vice president who has overseen the European Union's Digital Agenda during the past four years--a period of enormous change for the telecommunications sector. Kroes is now in the process of handing over the digital reins to her successors; if the European Council and Parliament approve the appointments on Oct. 21 and Oct. 23, the new Commission under Jean-Claude Juncker will take office on Nov. 1.

Indeed, Kroes herself has noted that she is being replaced by not one person but three men: Günther Oettinger, Andrus Ansip and Jyrki Katainen--an indication of how much the role has expanded and integrated with other areas since 2010. Oettinger--the man expected to take on the bulk of the work relating to the Digital Agenda in his role as commissioner designate for digital economy and society--has already made a name for himself by saying celebrities are "stupid" if they upload nude images to apparently "secure" cloud storage. It's already been commented that Oettinger is more "digitally naïve than digitally native", as the Guardian put it, and now there are murmurings that he may not be entirely suitable for the job.

As for Kroes, there's a fair chance that some operators will not be sorry to see her go: she did not gain her nickname of "steely Neelie" for nothing! She has pushed some headline-making proposals such as the planned abolition of roaming charges, the introduction of controversial net neutrality rules and the creation of a single market for telecoms in Europe.

Whatever you may think of Kroes and her policies, she has been an impressive and tireless figure in her pursuit of what she believes is essential for Europe's future: among other aspects of the digital economy she wants to knock down national barriers to create the same communications experience no matter where you are. That includes no roaming charges, of course, as well as improvements in broadband coverage. She also wants the EU to take ownership of 5G R&D to help it regain its former leading position in mobile technology development.

She leaves a strong and lasting legacy. She was also unable to resist making a few parting shots during her final debate with the telecoms sector this week, turning the tables on telecoms leaders by telling them what she would do if she were in their position.

So what would Kroes do if she were in charge? In summary, her advice is: make specific complaints: "regulate my rival' is not a general message that will resonate; adapt fast; go very big or stay small; get ready for the Internet of Things (IoT); and support a telecoms single market in order to win easier merger treatment.

"Sometimes I think the telecoms sector is its own worst enemy," she said in her outgoing speech.

Over to you, Günther, Andrus and Jyrki.--Anne

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