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Neelie Kroes (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈneːli ˈkrus]; born 19 July 1941) is a retired Dutch politician of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and businesswoman.[1]

Neelie Kroes
Neelie Kroes (2018).jpg
European Commissioner for Digital Agenda
In office
9 February 2010 – 1 November 2014
PresidentJosé Manuel Barroso
Preceded byViviane Reding (Information Society and Media)
Succeeded byGünther Oettinger (Digital Economy and Society)
Andrus Ansip (Digital Single Market)
European Commissioner for Competition
In office
22 November 2004 – 9 February 2010
PresidentJosé Manuel Barroso
Preceded byMario Monti
Succeeded byJoaquín Almunia
Minister of Transport and Water Management
In office
4 November 1982 – 7 November 1989
Prime MinisterRuud Lubbers
Preceded byHenk Zeevalking
Succeeded byHanja Maij-Weggen
State Secretary for Transport and Water Management
In office
28 December 1977 – 11 September 1981
Prime MinisterDries van Agt
Preceded byMichel van Hulten
Succeeded byJaap van der Doef
Member of the House of Representatives
In office
3 June 1986 – 14 July 1986
In office
25 August 1981 – 4 November 1982
In office
3 August 1971 – 28 December 1977
Personal details
Born (1941-07-19) 19 July 1941 (age 78)
Rotterdam, Netherlands
Political partyPeople's Party for Freedom and Democracy
Wouter Jan Smit
(m. 1965; div. 1991)

Bram Peper
(m. 1991; div. 2003)
EducationErasmus University Rotterdam (BEcon, MEcon)

Kroes worked as a corporate director for the transport company ZwaTra from 1968 until 1971 and as a Executive of the Rotterdam Chamber of commerce from 1969 until 1971. Kroes was elected as a Member of the House of Representatives after the election of 1971, she served in the House of Representatives from 3 August 1971 until 28 December 1977. After the election of 1977 Kroes was appointed as State Secretary for Transport and Water Management in the Cabinet Van Agt–Wiegel, serving from 28 December 1977 until 11 September 1981. After the election of 1981 Kroes returned to the House of Representatives, serving from 25 August 1981 until 4 November 1982. Following the election of 1982 Kroes was appointed as Minister of Transport and Water Management in the Cabinet Lubbers I. After the election of 1986 Kroes continued as Minister of Transport and Water Management in the Cabinet Lubbers II, serving from 4 November 1982 until 7 November 1989. Following the resignation of Minister of Defence Wim van Eekelen on 6 September 1988, Kroes was asked to succeed him but refused, the post would eventually be taken by Frits Bolkestein her future predecessor as European Commissioner. Shortly before the election of 1989 she announced her retirement from national politics and that she would not stand for the election.

Following the end of her active political career Kroes occupied numerous seats as a corporate director and lobbyist for supervisory boards in the business and industry world and several international non-governmental organizations (McDonald's Netherlands, Lucent, Nordic Investment Bank, Nedlloyd, Ballast Nedam, Stichting Pensioenfonds ABP, Nederlandse Spoorwegen, the Rotterdam Chamber of commerce and the Rembrandt House Museum). She served as Chairwoman of the NIBC Bank from 1991 until 2004 and as Rector Magnificus of the Nyenrode Business University from 1991 until 2000.

In 2004 Kroes was nominated as the next European Commissioner from the Netherlands in the First Barroso Commission. Kroes was giving the heavy portfolio of Competition. The First Barroso Commission was installed on 22 November 2004 and she resigned all her corporate functions that same day. She continued to serve in the Second Barroso Commission and was giving the portfolio of Digital Agenda and became one of the Vice-Presidents of the European Commission, serving from 9 February 2010 until 1 November 2014. Following her retirement from the European Commission Kroes once again occupied numerous seats as a corporate director and lobbyist for supervisory boards in the business and industry world and several international non-governmental organizations (Merrill Lynch, Uber, Open Data Institute,, One Young World) and as an advocate and adviser for startup companies.[2][3]


Career before politicsEdit

Neelie Kroes was born on 19 July 1941 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Her father owned the transport company Zwatra.[4]

Kroes attended a Protestant grammar school in Rotterdam. She continued to a Protestant high school. In 1958 she went to study economics at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. In 1961, Kroes was praeses of the R.V.S.V. (the largest Rotterdam sorority). She was also elected as a member of the University Council. After obtaining a Bachelor of Economics and later a Master of Economics degree in 1965, she became a research fellow at the economic faculty at that university. During this period Kroes was involved in the women's organisation within the VVD. In this period she also was member of the board of heavy transporting company "ZwaTra", the company of her father.

State Secretary for Transport and Water Management Neelie Kroes during a debate in the House of Representatives on 21 March 1979.
Minister of Transport and Water Management Neelie Kroes during a debate in the House of Representatives on 25 January 1983.
Minister of Transport and Water Management Neelie Kroes and Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers during a debate on 20 May 1987.
European Commissioner Neelie Kroes and Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the Ministry of General Affairs on 28 October 2011.

Local and national politicsEdit

Neelie Kroes was first elected member of the Rotterdam city council for the VVD in 1970.

In 1971 she was elected to the House of Representatives, forcing her to stop her fellowship. In parliament, she became spokesperson for education. She remained a member of parliament until 1977, when she became State Secretary for Transport, Public Works and Water Management in the First Van Agt Cabinet, responsible for Postal and Telephone Services and Transport. In 1981 she briefly returned to the House of Representatives, while her party, VVD, was in the opposition. In 1982 she returned to office in the First and Second Lubbers Cabinets, now as the Minister of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, a post that she held until 1989. As a minister she was responsible for the privatisation of the Postgiro (Postbank, initially a part of the PTT), the Post and Telephone Services, the Harbour Pilotage services, as well as the commissioning of the Betuwe Railway.

Kroes refused to become Minister of Defence in 1988.

During her tenure as minister, she was involved in the so-called TCR affair, about the illegal sale of warships. She had also a business relationship with a tank cleaning company (TCR), which illegally received governmental subsidies.

After national politicsEdit

After her ministerial career, Kroes spent two years working on two projects as an advisor to Karel van Miert, at that time European Commissioner for Transport.[5] She also became a member of the Rotterdam Chamber of Commerce, furthermore she served as a board member for Ballast Nedam (shipping), ABP-PGGM Capital Holdings N.V. (a joint subsidiary of the pension funds ABP and PGGM), NIB (an investment bank), McDonald's Netherlands, Nedlloyd, and Nederlandse Spoorwegen (the Dutch railroad company).

In 1991 Kroes became chairperson of Nyenrode University, a private business school. During this period Kroes also was a member of the Advisory Board of the Prof.Mr. B.M. Teldersstichting, the scientific bureau of VVD.

According to her husband, Bram Peper, from 1993 to 2001 Kroes relied on astrologers and clairvoyants for personal and business advice. Until 2004 Kroes maintained an office in the castle of Jan-Dirk Paarlberg, a real estate mogul who was convicted to four and a half years in prison for money-laundering and extortion. One of the astrologers advising Kroes during that time was Lenie Drent, who had been providing business advice to Paarlberg for decades.[6]

Kroes has held and still holds many side offices, mainly in cultural and social organisations. She is chairperson of Poets of all Nations, the Delta Psychiatric Hospital and of the board of the Rembrandt House Museum. Also, she was a member of several boards of commissioners, for instance at Nedlloyd (a shipping company) and Lucent Technologies (an information and communication technologies company).

European CommissionEdit

Commissioner for CompetitionEdit

In 2004 Kroes was appointed the European Commissioner for Competition. At the time, her nomination was heavily criticised because of her ties to big business and alleged involvement in shady arms deals. Kroes has tried to uphold her integrity; whenever she has to deal with issues concerning competition in branches of industry in which she used to be active as a board member, Commissioner McCreevy takes over her responsibilities.

As chairperson of Nyenrode Business University, Kroes awarded an honorary doctorate to Microsoft founder Bill Gates in 1996. As a European Commissioner for Competition one of her first tasks in 2004 was to oversee the sanctions against Microsoft by the European Commission, known as the European Union Microsoft competition case. This case resulted in the requirement to release documents to aid commercial interoperability and included a €497 million fine for Microsoft.

Kroes attended conferences organized by the Bilderberg Group every year between 2005 and 2012.[7][8]

In 2009 she was transferred to another European Commissioner post, namely ICT and Telecom. She was also appointed as one of the vice-presidents of the European Commission.

Commissioner for Digital AgendaEdit

In 2010 she became European Commissioner for Digital Agenda in the second Barroso Commission. The Digital Agenda for Europe[9] was proposed by the European Commission on 19 May 2010. The Digital Agenda for Europe[9] is supported by the EU Digital Competitiveness Report[10] launched also on 19 May 2010. She is a proponent of Free and Open Source Software.

Since 2010 she has served as a Commissioner for the Broadband Commission for Digital Development which leverages broadband technologies as a key enabler for social and economic development.[11]

In 2010 it was suggested that she would become prime-minister in the Netherlands, when Mark Rutte would stay in parliament due to difficulties in the formations in the new Cabinet. However, eventually Rutte became prime-minister.

In December 2011 Kroes invited Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg - who had resigned as German Minister of Defence in March 2011 due to plagiarism charges - as advisor to the European Commission as part of its No Disconnect Strategy designed to promote Internet freedom.[12]

In November 2012 Kroes made international news when she said her advisers at the Internet Governance Forum in Baku, Azerbaijan had been the victims of computer hacking.[13]

Later careerEdit

Kroes is currently leading StartupDelta, a public-private initiative to help promote the Netherlands as a destination for startup companies.[14] For the 2019 European elections, she was brought into the European election campaign by Guy Verhofstadt's Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats (Open VLD) in Belgium.[15]

In addition, Kroes has been holding a variety of paid and unpaid positions.

Personal lifeEdit

Kroes was married to social democratic minister and mayor Bram Peper. She is a confidant of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, known for her criticism of Islam and having a fatwa issued, and persuaded her to switch allegiance from the social democratic PvdA to the VVD.

Corporate boardsEdit

Non-profit organizationsEdit


In 2016, leaks to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (who also oversaw the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers leaks) revealed that from 2001 to 2009 Kroes was the director of Mint Holdings, a company registered in the Bahamas.[20][21][22] As part of the EU rules, a commissioner is obliged to declare previous and current economic interests, but she did not declare her directorship of the Bahamas company.[20][21] Further, EU commissioners are not allowed to hold outside directorships while in office (Kroes was in office 2004–2014).[20][22] According to her lawyer, Kroes acknowledged the situation, calling it an "oversight", and declared that she would take full responsibility.[20]



Kroes was International Road Federation Man of the Year of 1993.

Kroes made the Forbes' The World's 100 Most Powerful Women list multiple times: as number 53 in 2009,[23] 47 in 2008,[24] 59 in 2007.


Ribbon bar Honour Country Date Comment
  Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion Netherlands 26 October 1981
  Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown Belgium 1 May 2008
  Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Orange-Nassau Netherlands 19 November 2015 Elevated from Grand Officer (20 November 1989)

Honorary degreesEdit

Honorary degrees
University Field Country Date Comment
University of Hull Economics England 1989
Open University Political science Netherlands 26 September 2014


  1. ^ (in Dutch) Neelie Kroes erelid VVD, Telegraaf, 29 November 2014
  2. ^ (in Dutch) Dit wil Neelie Kroes in haar laatste jaar als startup-ambassadeur,, 2 September 2015
  3. ^ (in Dutch) Neelie Kroes adviseur van Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Telegraaf, 18 March 2015
  4. ^ (in Dutch) Drs. N. Kroes. Parlement & Politiek. Retrieved on 2010-03-02.
  5. ^ Imre De Roo (September 22, 2004) The Networker European Voice.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Secretive Bilderberg over but was world domination discussed?". Archived from the original on 13 October 2008. Retrieved 16 December 2008.
  8. ^ "Meeting 2010 Participants - Bilderberg Meetings". Retrieved 10 January 2016.
  9. ^ a b "Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - A Digital Agenda for Europe". European Commission. 19 May 2010. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  10. ^ "Digital Agenda for Europe - A Europe 2020 Initiative" (PDF). Digital Agenda for Europe. 1 October 2016. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 July 2011. Retrieved 12 March 2011.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ "Digital Agenda: Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg invited by Kroes to promote internet freedom". European Commission. 12 December 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  13. ^ "Internet security conference hacked". 3 News NZ. 13 November 2012.
  14. ^ "StartupDelta". Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  15. ^ Eline Schaart (March 12, 2019) Former Commissioner Neelie Kroes running in European election Politico Europe.
  16. ^ "Announcing Uber's Public Policy Advisory Board". Medium. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  17. ^ Leslie Hook and Richard Waters (May 4, 2016), Uber picks up Neelie Kroes to navigate policy roadblocks Financial Times.
  18. ^ "Neelie Kroes | Startup Fest Europe". Startup Fest Europe. Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  19. ^ "Global data leader and former European Commissioner for Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes joins ODI Board". Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  20. ^ a b c d "Ex-EU commissioner Neelie Kroes failed to declare directorship of offshore firm". The Guardian. 22 September 2016. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  21. ^ a b "Neelie Kroes under fire after leak reveals offshore business". Politico. 22 September 2016. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  22. ^ a b "Bahamas leak shines spotlight on Neelie Kroes". Financial Times. 22 September 2016. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  23. ^ "#53 Neelie Kroes". The 100 Most Powerful Women. Forbes. 19 August 2009. Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  24. ^ "#47 Neelie Kroes; Competition commissioner, European Union". Forbes Magazine's List of The World's 100 Most Powerful Women. Forbes. 27 August 2008. Retrieved 16 December 2008.

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Michel van Hulten
State Secretary for Transport and Water Management
Succeeded by
Jaap van der Doef
Preceded by
Henk Zeevalking
Minister of Transport and Water Management
Succeeded by
Hanja Maij-Weggen
Preceded by
Frits Bolkestein
Dutch European Commissioner
Succeeded by
Frans Timmermans
Preceded by
Mario Monti
European Commissioner for Competition
Succeeded by
Joaquín Almunia
Preceded by
Viviane Reding
as European Commissioner for Information Society and Media
European Commissioner for Digital Agenda
Succeeded by
Günther Oettinger
as European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society
Succeeded by
Andrus Ansip
as European Commissioner for Digital Single Market