The EU's technology chief on Tuesday welcomed Microsoft founder Bill Gates's campaign for a technical solution to junk e-mail, but said other measures were needed, too.
Gates has said he will develop computer software to halt unsolicited e-mails, known as spam, which sell everything from get-rich-quick schemes to anatomy enhancement. (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)
EU Technology Commissioner Erkki Liikanen said a global effort to track, fine and prosecute spammers was also needed, or the benefits of the Internet would be lost.
"(Microsoft's initiative) can give some benefit, as everybody working in the IT sector is threatened by spam," he told a news conference. "Spam is an enormous waste of time, as people have to delete unsolicited e-mails."
Half of the e-mails sent globally are spam, and while the EU has agreed basic legislation on the issue, fines and enforcement vary from country to country.
Liikanen launched an action plan on Tuesday to fight the spam plague, which cost European companies an estimated 2.5 billion euros in 2002 in lost productivity.
Companies have to buy e-mail filters and software programs, while workers waste time deleting junk mail.
About 80 percent of spam originates outside the 15-nation bloc, making it hard to target the sender.