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EUROPEAN COMMISSION: KROES TO REFUSE ALL FUTURE PRIVATE-SECTOR WORK.

EU spokesman Stefaan De Rynck told reporters that Mrs Kroes would never again engage in any business activity, not even running a bed and breakfast. In a letter to the new Commission President, Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, she said she had liquidated her stock options and would sell all her shares by November 1. The proceeds would be placed in a blind trust for her retirement managed by two trustees she does not know.

As of September 1, she has stepped down from the boards of Swedish car manufacturer Volvo, mobile phone firm mmO2, French defence company Thales, shipping group Royal P&O Nedlloyd and the Dutch arm of US technology group Lucent. She has also resigned cultural and charitable roles as well as positions with Corio, New Skies Satellites, Ballast Nedam, the Dutch NS railways, MeyerMonitor and Nederlands Luchtvaart Overleg.

In the letter, Mrs Kroes effectively confirmed that she would not rule on anti-trust charges against the mobile phone company mmO2 where she served as a director since 1998. Under the guidelines drawn up by the European Commission's Legal Service and discussed with Mr Barroso, she will ask the Commission President to look at the case or nominate another Commissioner to take it on.

Another obvious conflict of interest is a decision on continuing with a review of competition rules. This has been challenged by several shipping companies, including Royal P&O Nedlloyd where she has been a director since 1992.

She will not get involved in any case involving a company where she was a board member for a "cooling-off" period of one year (until November 1, 2005). During her entire five-year term in Brussels, she will stand aside from any case which examines actions taken by a company while she was a board member. She has promised not to investigate, decide or discuss any case where there is a possible conflict of interest. She will ask officials in DG Competition to discuss the case with the President or another Commissioner.

Mrs Kroes' business background was one of the reasons she was chosen for the heavyweight Commission post but it is now proving more of a liability than an asset. She and the 24 other incoming Commissioners will declare all their financial interests before taking up office as part of Mr Barroso's new code of conduct. But this will not save her from a trial by fire on September 28 when the European Parliament gets its chance to put the Commissioner candidates to the test. The confirmation hearing will be chaired by French Socialist Pervenche Beres, who has referred to Mrs Kroes' ties to business "problematic".

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Publication:European Report
Geographic Code:4E
Date:Sep 22, 2004
Words:438
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