Anyone with a burning question about the European Union's upcoming tech agenda has the chance to get an answer during a Twitter chat on Wednesday with Andrus Ansip, who could soon be the European Commission's Vice-President of the Digital Single Market.
Ansip invited everyone to send him questions and suggestions. "Let me know what should be on my 'to-do-list' for the next 5 years," he tweeted to his rather modest Twitter following of about 3,000. Questions can be tweeted with the hashtag #AskAnsip and Ansip will answer some of them between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. CET on Wednesday.
Ansip is expected to share the Commission's digital portfolio with Günther Oettinger in a realignment of its oversight of that area when Commissioner Neelie Kroes steps down along with the rest of the Commission on Nov. 1. Both candidates already got the green light from the European Parliament after it held confirmation hearings with the proposed Commissioners.
Although Ansip announced the Twitter Q&A last week, it hasn't have gathered a huge amount of interest so far. Looking at the tweets tagged with #AskAnsip some people seem to be concerned about net neutrality. "How can the EU enforce net neutrality?" asked one Twitter user, continuing -- apparently on a mobile device with autocorrect enabled -- "How can a costumer be sure his provider isn't voluntarily degrading a best effort service?"
Another user wanted to know what Ansip's mandate is "to run, govern and filter the internet."
Meanwhile, lobby groups are also taking the opportunity to question Ansip. The Federation of European Direct and Interactive Marketing (FEDMA) for instance seemed concerned about the upcoming reform of the EU's data protection rules. The organization wants to know if the Commission will consider industry self regulation as an adequate tool to ensure privacy and also asked what Ansip considers being the key principles of ethical personal data management.
Ansip, a 58-year-old former Estonian prime minister, decided to answer questions on Twitter after a suggestion by Julia Reda, a German Member of Parliament (MEP) for the European Pirate Party.
"It is an absolute novelty for designated EU commissioners to face direct questioning by the people ahead of the start of their mandate," Reda said, adding that this represents a further step in the democratization of the EU while giving the Internet community an opportunity to make their concerns heard.
Reda has also been collecting questions to ask Ansip on her site WhatWouldYouAsk.eu where people can vote on questions to ask. The most popular one questions what Ansip has learned from supporting the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which threatened digital rights of European citizens until it was abandoned by the Commission in 2012.
People also want to know if Ansip is willing to "abolish copyright levies which are only benefiting wealthy and opaque collecting societies" while they are curious to know what the Commission can do to protect European citizens against surveillance.
Reda also called on Oettinger, the current commissioner for Energy designated to be the commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, to follow Ansip's example. So far however @GOettingerEU with his 16.9 thousand followers has not responded to Reda's call for a public hearing online.
Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to [email protected]