In an attempt to reassure the Silicon Valley, the Commissioner in charge of the EU’s digital economy, Andrus Ansip, claimed yesterday in an interview with the The Wall Street Journal that the EU’s single digital market is not about protectionism, but really about opportunities.
In the beginning of May, the European Commission officially launched its new plan for a single digital market, which U.S. tech giants mainly took as a personal attack. Probably to appease their anxieties, the Commissioner held a speech yesterday in Washington, D.C., reminding the audience of the amount of transatlantic trade which is underpinned by digital goods and digital flows. But he went on explaining that Europe can no longer just sit back and watch the Internet bandwagon go by.
“In the physical sense, we have a solid internal market that integrates more than 500 million Europeans across 28 countries,” Ansip stated. “But speaking digitally, there is still a long way to go before all Europeans can enjoy the same freedoms online as they already do offline. Breaking through these barriers to build a Digital Single Market is a top priority for the European Commission.”
Taking down these barriers could generate €415 billion per year to the EU’s economy along with hundreds of thousands of new jobs. But most importantly for the U.S. tech giants, “it will provide opportunities for trade, investment, innovation. Not only for Europe, but globally – also for the United States,” said Ansip.
Removing high cost of cross-border parcel delivery, tackling unjustified geo-blocking, creating the right conditions for digital networks and services, and developing high-quality telecoms infrastructure that works smoothly across Europe are a few of the challenges the Commission wants to tackle. One of the problems which will surely intensify talks with the Silicon Valley’s tech giants is the market power of U.S. online platforms such as Facebook and Google. The Commission believes its SMEs are at a disadvantage within search results and wants this unfair competition to disappear all together.
Time will tell if the Commissioner convinced his U.S. counterparts that the EU’s plans are good for business. With antitrust charges against Google and investigations on Amazon and Apple looming in the back – not to mention the negotiations of a new Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – the Commission might need to go on a few more dates with U.S. business partners.
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