This just in: The European Commissioner for Competition is tired, and she's not going to take it any more.

"It," in this case, would be the "co-ordinated campaign to portray the Commission in a negative light."

That's the latest word from Commissioner Neelie Kroes, who seems a wee bit upset at the response to her latest shot across Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) bow, which said, as I read it, "Don't you dare make Windows too secure! All those other people need jobs, too!"

In a letter to the Financial Times, Kroes claims such a reading -- and I'm far from the only one to interpret it that way -- is wrongheaded. She says the EC has no vendetta against Microsoft, that it's been plenty helpful, and that it only seeks to "ensure that rival security software vendors, who have traditionally been the innovators in this area, are able to compete on a level playing field."

But there's the rub. What on earth is a level playing field to the EC?

As the European Commission's (EC) long-running antitrust feud with Microsoft has shown, the EC is more than happy to wield the stick even before an infraction occurs, a la Minority Report. In other words, it wants to call the fouls before the game has even started.

One of the first manifestations of this was the EC's punishment of Microsoft for the pre-crime of a harmful monopoly in Media players, even though it was perfectly clear that Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) closed system was a runaway leader in the space. And when Microsoft had agreed to remove Media Player from the OS, the EC whined about the matter-of-fact labeling packaging that Microsoft tried to use, because, apparently, the EC didn't want the truth of its mandate to be evident to the consumer.

Given this history, what's Microsoft's play when it comes to securing Vista across the pond? How much code does the company need to share? Do frequent security upgrades unfairly compete with McAfee (NYSE:MFE), Symantec (NASDAQ:SMYC), and others who traditionally provided these services? Would it be unfair of Microsoft to be too quick in its security releases? Too effective? Dare we wonder how many security holes consumers need to endure so that the EC can feel better about keeping the security revenues for outside vendors?

As I see it, the EC's attitude in this matter is still too much like taking the lash to Toyota (NYSE:TM) for developing a better engine or GM (NYSE:GM) for upping its power-train warranty. (Won't someone please think of those poor auto mechanics!)

Unfortunately for Microsoft shareholders, the costs of buying off the EC are very real, and they amount to hundreds of millions of dollars. It can't be easy to cope with Kroes and company, but ultimately, it needs to be done. The price of punishment -- fair or ludicrous -- is just too high.

For further discussion of the EU and its relationship with Microsoft:

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In support of International Talk Like a Pirate Day, we have provided an appropriate translation of this article here.

At the time of publication, Seth Jayson was long Microsoft common shares and calls but had no positions in any other company mentioned. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. See what he's digging these days. Fool rules are here