Examination of Witness (Questions 1140
WEDNESDAY 7 JUNE 2000
1140. What do you think about that?
A. My feeling is that certainly we need better
coherence among different Councils with co-operation among different
Council formations. Obviously the multiplication of Councils dealing
with similar issues like micro-economic issues, like industry
and internal markets, is not a very efficient way but the fact
is in Member States you have different ministers dealing with
these issues and the problem is merely a practical problem. I
would not call it a Competition Council, I might call it a Micro-Economic
Council or Enterprise Council. Maybe a Competitivity Council,
I do not know.
1141. We corrected ourselves earlier in the
morning and forgot it.
A. It is curious because competition is only
one aspect of that. Helsinki called for an reorganisation and
nothing happened but nothing happened because I think the structure
in Member States is such that you would have to invite three ministers
to that Micro-Economic Council, or whatever you call it. I am
not sure that it would work very well. In an ideal world, yes.
In an ideal world I think it is a good idea if there are no obstacles.
I certainly think that it would gain efficiency to have that broader
micro-economic vision of problems.
1142. I know there is a problem with Member
States and the way that they are structured in many respects and
the Council represents that and this is the chicken and the egg,
but we have to make a start somewhere. If they could effect reforms
could there not consequently then be changes in the states themselves?
A. There could be. The Commission has no power
A. We can say that it would work more efficiently
but I cannot see what the Commission can do to this except maybe
saying "good idea".
1144. The Commission can seek to reform itself,
as you are in the process of doing at the moment. If we are being
frank this morning, there are a lot of newspaper reports of one
sort or another around and magazines commenting on what is happening
in Brussels at the moment, that the drive is perhaps not as strong
as some people believe it should be. Is that fair or unfair and,
if there is a problem, what can be done to move things forward?
A. It is a very important question. My very
strong feeling is that this Commission is the best Commission
we have had in 20 years. It is a Commission that works fantastically
together. I have never seen Commissioners taking the initiative
on working groups meeting together. Mr Prodi is a very collegial
person, certainly the most collegial President I have ever seen.
1145. Why is that not being conveyed out to
the wider world?
A. I do not think Mr Prodi is a person who thinks
enough about communication. He is not someone who likes to put
himself at the forefront. I can tell you a little anecdote. When
we had the e-Europe initiative, we said "this is your initiative,
you are leading this. It is your initiative, you go to the press
conference and present it". We had the same thing with the
Lisbon Paper, the Lisbon Paper was the President's paper. We said
"you go to the press conference", and his first reaction
was "yes, but I will take Mr Liikanen and Mrs Diamantopoulou
because they worked very hard on this with me and it is a joint
project". Then we said we need a slogan, we need something
for the press.
1146. Sound bites.
A. Yes, sound bites. Something that is probably
A. It helps in communication. I fully recognise
it would help in communication but Mr Prodi is not a slogan man,
he is a man of ideas. He is like a very big boat, in the good
direction and he goes ahead, he moves. He is doing a fantastic
job. He is not interested in making publicity for what he does.
He believes that if you do the right work -I think he is wrong
on this and he recognises that nowif you do the good work
people will end up recognising it. Maybe we need advice on communication.
He has strong leadership in a very interesting way. When you see
the Commission meeting, he has a very strong leadership. He has
very strong ideas. He likes very open debates but he has got his
own ideas. He is very influential but he does not like to put
himself in the forefront. I suppose it is a question of temperament.
1148. Can I ask you a very simple question.
Looking at reforms and the future of the IGC and what the reforms
will mean for the future, which camp do you belong to? Do you
belong to the camp that believes that the Commission cannot operate
with more than 20 Commissioners in the future if there are more
countries than 20, or do you believe that the number could increase
and still be workable with the leadership that you have just talked
A. I believe that if the Commission is to work
well, whether it is with 20 or with 35, it will need some leaders
on big portfolios and some others, more like the secretaries of
state with respect to a ministerial system.
1149. But you think it is possible, that it
A. I think it is possible with a certain form
of organisation. My preference is for a smaller Commission but
I understand that this poses the problem of credibility when we
take decisions that concern certain Member States and the Member
State is not present in the Commission. I recognise that it does
1150. Do you think you will have a strike?
A. In the Commission?
1151. Yes, the people lower down. Stories have
been around that if you try to put some of the reform proposals
into place this may happen.
A. I do not think so. I think the problem is
more this problem of motivation. All of this press campaign is
having a very negative effect inside the Commission and that is
something I am very worried about. This is why I am trying to
have as much as possible people coming to see Mr Prodi from services.
I know all Commissions have had difficult times in the press.
I have been checking with our press service and they have come
up with press reports from other Commissions and it shows that
in a way it is not worse than for other Commissions but it feels
bad because it follows the fall of the previous Commission. I
think the effect is worse than it has been in the past because
there is also a feeling that the Commission is being questioned
more than before.
1152. The power is drifting possibly towards
A. I am not sure. My feeling is that if you
weaken the Commission you necessarily also weaken the Council
and the Parliament, you weaken the whole triangle. That is what
I think Member States have not integrated yet, they do not understand
that by weakening the Commission they are weakening the whole
institutiona l system and in the long run that is not in their
best interests. The interests of the Member States are to have
all three institutions working well. It is not a question of just
the Commission. I think the danger of the drift now is toward
inter-governmental game. It is something next to the institutions.
It is not a question of the Commission with respect to the Council,
the Council now is out for lots of things and that is wrong too.
1153. It is very pleasant to hear that. We think
in Britain that after the great money and effort spent on the
Dome the press is trying to destroy that. We also hope that the
press does not end up destroying the Commission. It is nice to
hear some comments like that and we wish you all the best.
A. There are some pre-judgments in relation
to the press and some mis-information which is very unfair. I
say "you can see that your article is factually wrong"
and they say "yes, we know, but the truth is not a story"
and that is a very dangerous game for democracy.
1154. You have been very open with us this morning.
I should say this is a formal session of taking evidence from
you. We will send you a draft of what you have said and if you
A. If I have said horrible things I will cross
Chairman: If you are unhappy about some of your
statements being in the public domain you have the right to take
Lord Faulkner of Worcester
1155. They will go into the published report.
A. You should not publish a report saying I
would like to scrap DG Enterprise.
1156. We will come back to you on this. We would
not want to embarrass you or lead you to a position where you
would not be so open as you have been. I agree entirely with what
you have said about funding networks for research rather than
individual projects, but my question comes back very quickly to
what you said earlier about changing the culture. A lot of our
witnesses have told us that e-commerce is going to change so many
things, government and industry, and part of that will be changes
not just in structure but changes in culture. I wonder whether
there is an initiative to do something about this within the EU
or are you just a lone voice in what you said earlier?
A. No. As I said, e-commerce is an excellent
example of an issue which has led to very positive development
in the Commission. Spontaneously there is a group of Commissioners
who have decided to meet regularly on this issue to co-ordinate
because they have realised in their portfolios they have various
aspects, like consumer protection, regulatory framework, legal
issues, etc., and I am talking about Diamantopoulou, Byrne, Bolkestein,
Liikanen, etc. They have decided to meet together and to support
that group we have created a group of Cabinet Services and Secretariat,
so it is a very good example of good co-ordination. We have now
made a list that we can put on the web of all the initiatives
that exist on e-commerce in the Commission, and which DG is in
charge. We cannot put e-commerce in one unit, that is impossible.
Necessarily there are different aspects and there is a logic in
the way it is divided. I think there is a very good logic but
what is needed is everyone should know what everyone else is doing
and take account of it and keep talking to each other and have
meetings where they can see what the overarching objective is.
It is a good example of a field where the development of technology
has helped in the Commission to create that co-ordination. On
that issue I am very positive, that is one that really works well.
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed, you have
been very generous with your time.