Frits Bolkestein

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Frits Bolkestein

Frederik Bolkestein (born 1933; usually known as Frits Bolkestein) is a Dutch politician and former EU Commissioner.

He was the leader of the market liberal People's Party for Freedom and Democracy, the VVD. In the European Commission, Bolkestein was responsible for Internal Market, Taxation and Customs Union issues. Some of the more politically sensitive items in his portfolio were the draft Community patent regulation and the draft Directives on the patentability of computer-implemented inventions and services in the internal market, the so-called "Bolkestein Directive", which has become the focus of heated debate. Former Irish finance minister Charlie McCreevy succeeded him at this post [1] (


Bolkestein studied mathematics and physics in Amsterdam and in the United States, subsequently he studied philosophy and ancient Greek, also in Amsterdam. Before entering Dutch politics in the 1970s, Bolkstein was a manager at the Royal Dutch-Shell oil company, taking him to various overseas postings. During his first years abroad for the Shell company, he also studied Law at the University of Leiden and Economics at the London School of Economics.

Bolkestein left Shell in 1978 and became a member of parliament for the VVD. From 1982-1986, he served as Minister of International Trade. After joining the parliament again, he was Minister of Defense from 1988-1989. In 1990 he was elected party leader of the VVD, a position he held until 1998. Between 1978 and 1999, when he became European Commissioner, he was member of parliament for 17 years.

During the 1990s, he was very successful as the political frontman of the VVD. As an opinion leader, he was known for his daring and controversial positions on such issues as multicultural problems in Dutch society, political dualism between government and parliament, and the structure and expansion of the European Union. From 1990-1994 he was the parliamentary opposition leader and continued his outspoken and independent style when his party was part of the government from 1994. During the regional elections of 1995, his criticism of Dutch immigration policies made his party the largest of the country.

He was president of the Liberal International, the world federation of liberal political parties. As of the Fall of 2004 he is professor at the Dutch universities of Leiden and Delft. Also he is preparing a book on the influence of intellectuals on political life.

Bolkestein wrote a play in English, under the anagram pseudonym of Niels Kobet: Floris, Count of Holland.

He authored a number of books on politics and related subjects. Frits Bolkestein is married to Femke Boersma, a Dutch actress. In 2005, his house in Northern France was shortly cut from electricity by the local energy company after he critized French protectionist measures against incoming electricians from Eastern Europe.


  • "In a radical democracy in which everybody should be able to co-decide, not everyone meets the [criteria of] competence, preparedness to serve the common interest and economic independence. That's why this form should be rejected. Every four years, the citizen can give his judgement on government policy in all openness, and in this manner have influence. For this, it is necessary however that the citizen is well informed. That is a task of the government." Frits Bolkestein (lecture at the University of Amsterdam, 11 March 1997)
  • "If we fail in our efforts to achieve harmonisation of patent law relating to computer-implemented inventions in the European Union, we may well be confronted with a renegotiation of the European Patent Convention. The process of renegotiating the European Patent Convention would not require any contribution from this Parliament." (Frits Bolkestein speech to the European Parliament 23 September 2003)

External links

Preceded by:
Hans van den Broek
Dutch European Commissioner
Succeeded by:
Neelie Kroes
Preceded by:
Mario Monti
European Commissioner for the Internal Market
Succeeded by:
Charlie McCreevy

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