* Nine out of 27 EU commissioners criticise deal to end
* Opposition will not change EU antitrust chief's decision
* Internal Commission dissent underlines political
sensitivity of deal
By Tom Körkemeier
BRUSSELS, Feb. 13 A third of the members of the
European Commission opposed the EU's decision to strike a deal
with Google and end a three-year antitrust investigation,
officials said, underlining the political sensitivity of the
While the opposition of nine commissioners is not enough to
block the agreement struck by Joaquin Almunia, the competition
commissioner, it is rare for such strong opposition to be voiced
and it will fuel the frustration of Google competitors
such as Microsoft.
The commissioners made their opposition clear during the
Commission's weekly meeting on Wednesday, Energy Commissioner
Gunther Oettinger told reporters. They will take a definitive
vote on the issue in the coming months.
Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier echoed
"We had a very long debate which shows that there are a lot
of concerns and questions," Barnier said. "We haven't finished
our work on this subject."
After months of negotiation, Almunia last week said he would
accept Google's proposal to display rival links on Internet
search results more prominently, calling them significant
concessions which had allayed competition concerns.
The deal means Google avoids a fine of up to $5 billion.
As well as being frustrated by Almunia's decision,
complainants such Microsoft, German online mapping service
Hotmaps and British price comparison site Foundem are upset that
they are not being further consulted on the remedies.
A Commission official said the discussion over Google was
intense and lasted for four hours.
"Almunia explained in a detailed way why Google's proposals
address our concerns and what the next steps will be," Almunia's
spokesman, Antoine Colombani, said in an email.
EU telecoms chief and Almunia's predecessor, Neelie Kroes,
is "very happy" with the deal, her spokesman Ryan Heath said.
Almunia will formally seek approval from his peers on the
Google deal in the coming months. The EU executive typically
decides by consensus or by a simple majority vote.