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New EU Competition Chief Gave Honorary Degree To Gates

Facing hearings on her nomination as European Union Competition Commissioner, Neelie Kroes is virtually certain to be asked whether the honorary degree she awarded to Microsoft's Bill Gates in 1996 could influence her handling of the ongoing EU antitrust case against the software giant.

"In my former life I was also the president of a business school, and that business school gave an honorary degree to Mr. Gates," Kroes said, according to the Reuters news agency. She had previously been head of the Nijenrode Business School in the Netherlands. "I'm not in office yet and I have to prove to [the European] Parliament that I will pass my exams."

Outgoing EU competition chief Mario Monti won a $612 million fine and an imposition of business sanctions against Microsoft. The case is still wending its way through an appeals process in the EU. The process could take years to reach its conclusion after all appeals measures are exhausted.

A former Dutch transport minister, Kroes noted that she now has "a different responsibility" as the nominated competition chief than she had as a college head.

The next stop in the Microsoft case is scheduled for September 30 at the EU's Court of First Instance in Luxembourg.

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