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What inspires EC's Neelie Kroes? Angry Birds

The European Commission vice president sings the computing industry's praises -- but offers few suggestions to help it solve the EU's economic woes.

Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission, speaking at LeWeb 2012.
Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission, speaking at LeWeb 2012. Stephen Shankland/CNET

PARIS -- It began with a meeting this week between two Finns from Angry Birds maker Rovio Mobile and Neelie Kroes, the vice president of the European Commission's digital agenda. It ended with a jumble of politicians trying to learn what they could do to make Europe more economically vital in the digital age.

"Please skip the next appointment. I need more time with these guys," Kroes told her staff, then called vice ministers and other officials into the meeting. "In three hours we had a list to do for ourselves, and also for getting inspiration. That is what we need, not just saying it is sad."

There is indeed plenty to feel gloomy about in Europe right now -- high unemployment, budget troubles, and economic ties poorly aligned with political realities. Kroes, speaking here at LeWeb today to as techie an audience as you'll find in Europe, said the computing industry should serve as an example of what's going right.

"There is one sector that is giving hope. We should take it, and we should feed it. There is opportunity for Europe," she said, recounting what she told a weekly meeting today of the EC's president and 26 commissioners.

Kroes has some cred when it comes to computing. She rose to fame in tech circles by pursuing a long-running antitrust case against Microsoft, most recently regarding matters of Web browser choice. In 2009 she stepped away from her antitrust role and became leader of the EC's digital agenda.

But she had little specific to offer when grilled onstage by Loic Le Meur, an entrepreneur and founder of the LeWeb show. She acknowledged his concerns about things like cross-country differences in VAT (value added tax) regulations and labor law, but didn't have much advice for entrepreneurs specifically.

She does hope that the Internet era will help smooth over differences between different European Union member states, though.

"We have to make the internal market a completely digital internal market, without borders," she said.

And she repeatedly called on the younger generations to effect change and to move the old guard along.

"In my opinion the youngsters have that spirit. Who needs to change is the older generation," Kroes said. "I'm talking about our leaders. They still have often a not creative way of thinking."