European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes honored EIF at a special cocktail event the day before the Digital Agenda Assembly in Brussels. She carried a strong message: if we do not establish an eEU27 very soon, a true Digital Single Market, then we are killing the goose with the digital golden eggs. The Digital Single Market should have been ready ‘yesterday’ in her words.
Mrs. Kroes and the EIF governors were clearly on the same page in moving forward on the Digital Agenda. Mrs Kroes thanked the Parliament for the way cooperation is taking place. She also mentioned that there would be more difficult issues to follow in the near future. Admitting that she herself is perhaps not particularly diplomatic, she emphasized that ‘time is not our friend’ and that policy needs a dramatic speed boost in the next 12 months.
‘We had plenty of chances’, Mrs Kroes said. The digital economy is growing by 12% per year and we must swiftly progress with removing the obstacles that are in the way of a Digital Single Market. 'Why not aim for 20% growth in our digital economies?' It is exactly that what Europeans need in Mrs Kroes' opinion. In that respect she conveyed that it is of utmost importance that national decision makers are made aware of how their interests and the digital agenda intersect. New jobs for Europe are at stake.
Mrs Kroes mentioned policy areas that she wants to focus on in the next 12 months, although pointing out that this list was not at all complete. For example, Trust and Privacy issues are holding back e-commerce in Europe, she said and continued that 'Industry needs to play ball', It is disheartening that European citizens are still not able to buy the music and books that they want via regular online channels. The fact that illegal alternatives are around the corner is not a good experience for consumers.
EIF governors emphasized that the Digital Agenda is one of the flagships of the EU 2020 Strategy and that the work done to date by the Commission is a great first step. However, the first step provides the framework and now we have to take action to avoid the same disappointing results as the Lisbon Strategy, in the words of one of the MEP governors.
Big picture questions still remain on the table as well. Where does Europe fit in the global context one needs to wonder? The Cloud and Net Neutrality are just some examples where Europe needs to have a coherent vision and execution if it wants to remain a player in the global innovation game. The governors also emphasized the importance of a stand against those countries fencing off the Internet and a plea to make the Internet pie bigger for everyone, whilst protecting human rights and looking beyond mere market potential.
In conclusion Mrs Kroes reiterated that we cannot get complacent: the digital world is expanding at enormous speed. 'Things will bite us if we do not do something today'.
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