Look across borders for a secure digital world

Posted by digital-europe on 02/04/14

The Post online letter published on 27 March 2014

From John Higgins and Lotte de Bruijin

The dust of the Nuclear Security Summit has descended. The world has an additional number of arrangements for security. Next year, the Netherlands will host the Fourth International Cyberspace Conference. This Ministerial Conference is an opportunity to also make the world digitally safer.

The open Internet has led to an incredible contribution to economic growth and brings people from all over the world closer together, every day. Within the next five years 30 billion devices and sensors together form the ‘Internet of Things’. With the Netherlands as Digital Gateway to Europe this offers a wealth of new opportunities for economy and society.

This can only be realized if there is trust in the digital economy. This trust is undermined if users are wondering who they can trust online, if it is not clear who has access to data or if data is stored safe on the Internet.

In response to this, there is a call within countries to initiate own measures to keep data secure and to guard systems against cyber attacks. For example to start building a separated Internet or to only allow data to be stored in their own country. This is not the right way.

Almost nothing is as international as the Internet. It is built on international foundations, systems, devices and software. This development is not just confined to borders but takes place all over the world. Dutch software companies export annually 2 billion. Dutch industry is looking far across borders and is like no other active abroad. There is almost no country where Dutch companies are not active.

Yes, cybercriminals operate internationally: an attack that is today focused on Brazil can hit the Netherlands tomorrow. In addition, cyber criminals use the same internet to start attacks from various countries And not nearly all of these countries have their law enforcement arranged properly.

International cooperation is therefore an important key in creating a safer digital domain where the user benefits with trust. This requires international agreements. More than other countries, the Netherlands will benefit from them.

There is an urgent need to agree on international standards that are leading in the world and which are practical for both large and small businesses. In addition, we need agreements on a basic level of protection in Europe to prevent weak links, but a level that leaves room for companies to innovate and adapt to new risks. Europe is well on its way here. Thirdly, on international exchange of information on cyber threats. Cybercriminals do not respect borders. Fourthly, on rapid and effective cross-border law enforcement on cybercrime and tackling cyber criminals. Now the chance of getting caught is too low, with the risk that countries independently expand their digital investigative powers to foreign countries. May the Dutch police hack a server in Russia and may Russia may also do the same to us? Fifthly, agreements on the rules of engagement for countries and their intelligence services on the Internet.

Focus on cybersecurity should not lead to fear. Fear is a bad counsellor. But to profit from the opportunities of the Internet and ICT, we should have a good answer to the threats. That only works in an international context. The Cyberspace Conference next year provides a unique opportunity for the Netherlands to take the lead. It starts in the national parliament that is debating cyber security this week. We ask Members of Parliament to set the agenda internationally.

 

Privacy can be protected without protectionism

Posted by digital-europe on 25/03/14

Financial Times letter published on 25 March 2014

From Mr John Higgins and Mr Dean C Garfield.

Sir, With the threat of conflict on Europe’s eastern borders, it is more important than ever for the European Union and the US to show unity. The transatlantic relationship represents the most important trade partnership in the world. Efforts to strengthen this relationship through an ambitious trade and investment agreement are more important than ever. We urge leaders meeting in Brussels this week to address the key challenges that stand in the way of an agreement. Most notably, the issue of international data flows.

Recent revelations about government surveillance practices on both sides of the Atlantic have dented citizens’ and governments’ confidence in the safe, protected flow of data. At its most extreme, this discussion has led to calls in some countries for the localisation of data – or in other words building walls around the internet on a regional level to restrict data flows. This would be a huge mistake. It threatens to isolate countries, or even entire regions from the global digital economy. Talk of forced localisation of data is being heard in countries as far apart as Brazil and Indonesia.

We must not be naive about this. Data protection is only part of the reason why some are calling for data restrictions. Some countries want data kept locally because they think it is good for local business.

There is a real risk that by restricting data flows we will open up an era of economic protectionism that would have a harmful impact on global economic growth. The EU and the US must send a clear message in support of international data flows as they negotiate their bilateral trade agreement. Not only is it crucial for transatlantic trade and the two partner economies that are directly involved; it will also send a message to other trading partners around the world about how vital the free movement of data is to all economic activity.

In addition to the TTIP talks, it is important to reach a prompt and clear conclusion to the review of the safe harbour agreement. Transatlantic trade in many important industry sectors cannot work without it.

Concerns about government surveillance have undermined people’s confidence in how their personal data is handled on the internet. To restore that trust the EU and US both need to clarify under what circumstances and how their governments should be able to access people’s personal data. They also need to demonstrate that they respect each other’s privacy rules. Without the trust of citizens on both sides of the Atlantic, our economies will not be able to take full advantage of technologies such as cloud computing and data analytics, which are becoming key drivers for our economies. As Neelie Kroes, the EU digital commissioner, recently said: “ ‘No’ to data protectionism; ‘Yes’ to data protection.” This week’s EU-US summit is an excellent opportunity to promote this principle at the highest level.

John Higgins, Director General, Digitaleurope, Brussels, Belgium

Dean C Garfield, President and CEO, Information Technology Industry Council, Washington, DC, US

To download the article please click here.


Europe must beware of a Balkanised internet

Posted by digital-europe on 21/02/14

Protectionism is not the answer to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s doubts about control of the internet, says DIGITALEUROPE’s John Higgins.

This weekend, Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, said that at a Franco-German summit in Paris on Wednesday (19 February) she would discuss EU-based alternatives to the current US-dominated internet infrastructure.
It is great to see a European leader of chancellor Angela Merkel’s stature engaging in the debate about digital issues that will have a long term impact on Europe’s economic standing in the world.
I share her desire to see the creation of world-class European providers of digital products and services, and I agree on the need to build an online environment in Europe that is secure, and that inspires confidence among Europe’s citizens.
Three elements are needed to achieve these two inter-connected goals. First, data protection law needs to be robust, consistent and flexible.
Robust enough to re-assure citizens as they engage with networked technologies; consistent in the sense that one set of rules applies to the whole continent, giving companies the legal certainty they need to do business across the EU; and flexible enough to meet the needs of a wide range of different types of data, with differing levels of sensitivity.

Second, Europe and her allies need a coordinated response to the way security agencies have been accessing citizens’ data. Keeping data in Europe won’t keep it safe from the spies. Efforts must focus on making security agencies more transparent and establishing rules of engagement to prevent them trawling through personal data of innocent citizens unless it’s necessary for our security.
And third, Europe’s politicians must create an environment that will help foster world-class technology companies. This means more investment in R&D and infrastructure, better teaching of the skills needed in a digital economy, and tax and investment conditions that encourage entrepreneurs to pursue their ideas here, instead of in Silicon Valley.
Some people interpret Chancellor Merkel’s comments over the weekend as a call to protectionist arms. I disagree. Mrs Merkel knows that setting up barriers to the free flow of data beyond Europe’s borders would, like all protectionist measures, provoke a race to the bottom that would harm all trading partners, and all industries that rely on data – in other words all industries.

If Europe forced companies to keep all data within EU boundaries this would undermine its negotiating position with other trading partners around the world who are also considering taking protectionist measures to preserve local companies from competition from abroad.
If protectionism is allowed to take root this would spell the end of an open Internet, and instead of being an open and dynamic environment, the Web would become Balkanised.
By putting up barriers at Europe’s borders, we would be throwing away huge potential for Europe in terms of innovation in a wide range of economic activities. Technologies that are only now coming on stream rely heavily on data analytics, which in turn relies heavily on large datasets.

Isolating Europe’s data behind a protectionist wall will not only harm Europe’s economy as a whole. It will also harm Europe’s standing in scientific and medical research.

While our largest trading partners will be fully harnessing the potential of data analytics, Europe will be consigned to having data analytics lite, and will be put at a major disadvantage to other regions.
Europe must prevent the debate over data protection becoming a move towards data protectionism. I urge Chancellor Merkel and President Francois Hollande of France to keep this important and necessary debate on the right tracks when they meet later this week.

By John Higgins, director-general of DIGITALEUROPE

This Op-Ed was first published by the European Voice on 17 February 2014.

Be aware, stay secure

Posted by digital-europe on 14/10/13
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Sadly most of us only get serious about our security, cyber or otherwise, when we or someone close to us have a bad experience. And with cyber it’s worse. While the consequences of inadequate physical security have been clear from the time men lived in caves, cybersecurity has no such place in our collective psyche. That’s why we need to get behind initiatives like the European Cyber Security Month (ECSM).

October 2013 is European Cyber Security Month (ECSM), a European Union advocacy campaign which aims to promote cyber security among citizens, to change their perception of cyber-threats and provide up to date security information through education and sharing good practices.

Talking about ECSM 2013, Neelie Kroes said that “the dream to create a connected continent cannot be accomplished without trust and confidence in a secure digital realm”. I couldn’t agree more: a digitally-powered Europe can only be achieved if a genuine circle of trust exists among governments, citizens and ICT service providers.

DIGITALEUROPE is very happy to support this initiative from DG CONNECT and ENISA, and we will be an official partner of the European Commission throughout the whole month.  We are dedicated to raising awareness and promoting a safe cyberspace to governments, business and citizens, and we want to play our part in this important campaign.

Part of our awareness-raising programme will include the ECSM talk co-organised with the European Commission during the official kickoff event for the campaign on 11 October.  DIGITALEUROPE is also participating in the organisation of a conference hosted by the Communications Regulatory Authority of the Republic of Lithuania on 25 October, where cyber issues will be at the centre of the debate between MEPs, EU officials and industry representatives.

Cybersecurity is not confined to national borders and so I am particularly pleased that the ECSM coincides with the US Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Effective global cooperation underpins a safe internet. We are also committed to promoting the leading role of industry in cybersecurity. The Seoul Conference on Cyberspace will provide a good forum for information exchange between government and industry.

But cybersecurity is not just for governments and industry: the end-user must become a stronger player in the cyber game in order to improve security for all. Citizens must be aware of current risks and future threats, take an interest in this debate and learn how to develop good security habits.

We as individuals are the cornerstones of cybersecurity.  In my view, cybersecurity goes beyond the obvious of protecting networks and preventing cybercrime. It must also include individual safe conduct on the net. Given the speed of technological progress – bear in mind that the smartphone boom only started in 2007 – we must each take on a greater role in keeping our cyber world secure.

I am glad to see that the European Commission has taken the initiative to dedicate one month to raising awareness about cybersecurity. But does this mean that our efforts should be put on hold for the next 11 months? If we want to stay secure, we must all be aware now and tomorrow.

John Higgins – Director General DIGITALEUROPE

Culture aux hormones, guerres dans l’audiovisuel: game over!

Posted by digital-europe on 25/07/13
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Les dirigeants politiques européens s’apprêtent à renouer avec les erreurs commises à l’époque où la directive Télévision sans frontières muait en directive sur les services de médias audiovisuels: il était alors envisagé d’étendre le champ d’application de cette législation aux loisirs interactifs tels que les jeux en ligne. Heureusement, une majorité comprit rapidement que des signaux audio et vidéo d’apparence semblable pouvaient recouvrir des expériences de nature radicalement différente. Tandis que le jeu doit son succès au défi du changement permanent qu’il lance à ceux qui s’y adonnent, les films et émissions télévisées – quel que soit leur mode de transmission, linéaire ou non – invitent à une passivité exigée par leurs auteurs, intégristes du caractère inaltérable des contenus.

Quand l’histoire repasse les plats
De nos jours comme en 2009, les secteurs soumis à un bouquet épineux de contraintes sont enclins à recommander au régulateur de jeter plus loin son filet pour augmenter ses prises. Plus on est de fous, plus on rit, disent-ils. Tout en inspirant la sympathie – qui ne voudrait soulager la peine des autres ? – ce discours menace l’innovation en Europe et, partant, la compétitivité mondiale de la création européenne.

Témoin l’appel que vient de lancer la Fédération française des télécoms (FFT). Se fondant sur une étude qui affirme que la technologie numérique est le principal moteur de croissance des contenus culturels, elle revendique le premier rang des soutiens à la culture française et invite les autres secteurs à suivre son exemple. Point pourtant de bousculade au portillon. C’est que fabricants de terminaux électroniques, équipementiers télécoms ou OTT, tous ont bâti leur réputation d’excellence sur une concentration sans faille sur leur métier d’origine. On comprend donc qu’ils hésitent à adhérer à des schémas compliqués auxquels ils se sentent étrangers.

De même qu’on ne prête pas foi à celles qui se prétendent à demi enceintes, l’Europe ne saurait renoncer à moitié à exercer son ascendant historique sur la création artistique mondiale : ou bien on arrête les frais ou bien on joue pour gagner.
Le rapport commandité par la FFT contient un autre grain de sable: l’invitation qu’elle y lance à partager sa douleur prend l’exception culturelle pour acquise. Or rien n’est moins sûr. L’originalité de ce choix politique consiste à sanctuariser une série de produits et services ainsi mis hors d’atteinte des lois qui régissent le commerce international. Son cadre dépasse largement celui des « exceptions générales » prévues à l’Article XIV du GATS qui permettent aux signataires de se donner les moyens de protéger la morale, la santé et l’ordre publics ainsi que l’intimité et la sécurité, ou bien de prévenir la fraude dans la stricte mesure où ils ne pratiquent ni discrimination ni restriction déguisée du commerce des services. Cette suspension des obligations des parties contractantes au GATS ne conférait pourtant pas aux Européens une latitude suffisante pour pratiquer la violation intégrale et permanente des règles commerciales à laquelle ils entendaient avoir recours afin de protéger leur culture. Telle est l’origine de l’exception culturelle née des négociations du GATS de 1994.

Mais le doute plane encore sur deux questions-clés: la durée légale de cette dérogation et lequel du Traité de l’OMC ou de la Convention de l’UNESCO sur la diversité culturelle prévaut sur l’autre instrument. La persistance de cette incertitude juridique explique l’âpreté des délibérations du Conseil, le mois dernier, sur l’exception culturelle et le TTIP. D’évidence la révolution numérique appelle à une révision drastique de l’exception culturelle désormais privée de sa raison d’être. La pénurie de contenus qui justifiait subventions et quotas a fait place à une saturation mondiale sous le double effet de l’ubiquité d’accès et de la transformation des consommateurs en autant de créateurs virtuels. Le foisonnement culturel qui en résulte porte la diversité éponyme à son zénith au point que les contenus de qualité ne se soucient guère des gouvernements pour trouver leur public.

Une culture peut en cacher une autre
Il n’est pas inutile de mieux cerner la culture si l’on veut dissiper toute ambiguïté à son égard. L’internet est souvent loué comme un bouillon de culture, une sorte de lubrifiant idéal des échanges culturels. Plus proches des recherches en laboratoire que de l’or et des paillettes des scènes de spectacle, les formes de culture auxquelles il donne naissance sont tout aussi indispensables à l’avenir de l’humanité. Craignant d’être débordés, les intermédiaires de la culture qui ont proliféré au temps de la technologie analogique font aujourd’hui cause commune avec les autorités fiscales pour s’emparer des découvertes qui se trament dans le creuset des « boîtes de Pétri » de l’internet. Une telle ambition mérite toutefois réflexion: priver cette culture aujourd’hui en permanente ébullition des ingrédients que lui dispense son écosystème est le moyen assuré de la voir s’étioler à jamais.

Le contraste n’est pas tant entre culture des élites et culture de masse qu’entre culture organique et culture de synthèse
La seule culture que reflète l’appel de la FFT est celle de l’assistanat. Elle produit rarement des chefs d’œuvre. Qui attache ses soins exclusifs à se munir du bouclier parfait renonce à l’audace. Les béquilles ne figurent pas au rayon des conquérants, non plus que la laisse ou le sucre à celui des vrais créateurs. Les cultures qui font le tour du monde se nourrissent des ingrédients qui mijotent au sein des « boîtes de Pétri » que l’internet met à la disposition de tous. Instrument-clé de la collaboration de masse, l’internet offre un vaste réseau de micro- ou mini-labos où infusent les contenus du futur.

Le meilleur moyen pour un Etat de donner aux trésors de créativité de ses ressortissants une dimension planétaire consiste à mettre l’internet à la portée de tous. Le marché décidera de la suite à donner. En parfaite adéquation avec l’ère numérique, un tel changement de cap ne serait pas incompatible avec des soutiens publics pourvu que ceux-ci soient assis sur l’ensemble des contribuables – dont l’intérêt est incontestable pour agir en faveur de la conservation du patrimoine national – et accessibles à toute production de nature à arrondir cet héritage. A l’inverse, n’est-il pas contraire à la logique comme à la morale de forcer les têtes d’affiche qui caracolent à la pointe des palmarès internationaux à financer des oeuvres qui ne trouvent même pas preneur localement ?

Les pères de l’exception culturelle ont déployé une impressionnante maestria pour exploiter si longtemps les succès de la production extra-européenne au profit de leur idée propre de la culture européenne.

En propulsant l’entertainment mondial sur des orbites jusque-là inexplorées et en mettant la culture à la portée de tous, les technologies numériques ont bouleversé la donne : les outils de gestion de la pénurie sont devenus non seulement inopérants mais inutiles. Le ralliement de la FFT au chœur des chantres de l’exception culturelle est suffisamment récent pour atténuer les effets de sa complicité avec ceux dont la distorsion de concurrence alimente le fonds de commerce depuis des décennies. Il n’en demeure pas moins essentiel – pour eux comme pour tous les bénéficiaires de la révolution numérique – que les opérateurs de télécommunications comprennent que la partie est définitivement terminée. Une autre s’amorce, bien plus prometteuse.

CULTURE ON STEROIDS, AUDIOVISUAL WARS: GAME OVER!

Posted by digital-europe on 25/07/13
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European policy makers appear on the brink of making the same mistake as when the Television without Frontiers directive morphed into the Audiovisual Media Services directive: serious consideration was then given to expanding the earlier legislation to include interactive entertainment such as online games. Luckily the majority soon realized that beneath the same “skin” of audio and video signals, the gaming experience had nothing to do with watching a movie or a TV show: the former depends on each player’s input while producers that make the latter possible embrace the religion of unaltered content, whether obtained via “linear” or “non-linear” distribution.

History repeats itself
Today industries bound to sprawling audiovisual rules tend to recommend that regulators should cast their net wider. The wider the party the wilder, or so goes their line of reasoning. Though one can understand where they come from – shared pains feel lighter – this ill-conceived advocacy jeopardizes innovation across Europe, hence the competitiveness of European creation worldwide.

The French Federation of Telecoms (FFT) is a case in point. Having portrayed digital technology as the main engine of growth for cultural content, they claim the prize of top contribution to French culture and invite like-minded sectors to walk in their footsteps. No mad rush in sight though. Whether device makers, network equipment manufacturers or OTTs, they all built excellence on unrelenting focus on their core business. They hesitate to join schemes that look so convolutedly foreign to it.

Half abdicating Europe’s time-honoured lead in the arts is as inconvenient as confessing half-pregnancy: either you stop playing or you swing hard
There is another fly in the ointment concocted by the FFT: their invitation to share the pain takes the cultural exception for granted. Not quite actually. In essence, the cultural exception declares a vaguely defined sanctuary of products and services immune to the application of international trade rules. This goes over and above Article XIV of GATS whose “general exceptions” provide for adoption or enforcement of national measures to protect public morals, order or health, privacy, safety or to prevent fraud as long as they introduce no discrimination or disguised restrictions on trade in services.

Because such relief was not enough to allow for the protracted and comprehensive breach of trade rules that European governments contemplated to protect culture, they designed the cultural exception in 1994. But the jury is still out on two counts: how long this derogation will stay; which of the GATS or of the UNESCO Convention on cultural diversity takes precedence.

This nagging legal uncertainty is the root cause of the EU’s heated debate last month over the cultural exception and the TTIP. The digital revolution actually robs the cultural exception of its “raison d’être”. Content scarcity – the excuse for State subsidies and quotas – has made room for worldwide glut as the internet gives easy access to all content anytime anywhere and turns all users into producers, potentially. Cultural diversity rocks as a result of this sea-change whereby quality content hardly needs government props to meet its public.

Watch your cultural step
What culture means is worth pondering though in order to dispel ambiguity. The internet is rightly hailed as the ultimate culture fluid, a “bouillon de culture” the French would say. Arguably more akin to what will happen behind the closed doors of a laboratory than to the glittering acts performed on stage, this fledgling form of culture no less informs the future of mankind. Self-proclaimed ushers of culture sent mushrooming by the analogue era now join forces with tax authorities to get hold of whatever is cooking in the “Petri dishes” of the internet. But they should think twice: pull the plug and this burgeoning new culture will die out of deprivation of the milieu that nurtures it.

No high v pop culture, rather organic v canned
The only culture the FFT call reflects is the culture of dependency. Whoever gives undivided attention to crafting the best-ever shield thereby gives up on being bold. Conquerors wouldn’t walk on crutches. Cultures able to win over the world feed upon the very nutrients to be found in the “Petri dishes” that the internet affords all users. A perfect tool for mass collaboration, the internet is often painted as an extended network of micro- or mini-labs where future content is brewing. If so, fostering home-grown creativity and giving it a chance to meet with global success starts with securing internet access for all and letting the market decide.

While perfectly fit for the digital era this change of tack could accommodate State aid regardless, as long as subsidies would come out of taxpayers – in their capacity as custodians of national culture – and go to all national legacy-building production. Indeed why compel global hits to fund content nobody wants to watch, play or listen to?

The brain fathers of the cultural exception deserve commendation for tapping non-EU entertainment to fund their idea of European culture so successfully over such a long period of time. However, digital technology has ushered in a brand new deal by powering entertainment to new heights and easing access to culture. Granted, the FFT has climbed only lately on the bandwagon of the cultural exception: its record of abetting those who had a decades-long field day distorting markets is therefore short. Regardless, telecoms operators must realize that this game is over.

Les nouveaux habits de l’Europe de la Culture: de l’exception à la révolution

Posted by digital-europe on 23/07/13
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A en croire les communiqués, l’exception culturelle a remporté une victoire décisive le 4 juin quand le Conseil de l’Union européenne, unanime, a décidé de ne pas en faire un élément des négociations du Traité transatlantique sur le commerce et l’investissement (TTIP). Un examen plus détaillé révèle cependant les facteurs endogènes aussi bien qu’exogènes d’une véritable crise existentielle.

Un aller-retour exception-diversité en forme de tour de passe-passe
Le pari semblait à première vue osé que l’attelage entre exception et culture allait marcher plus droit que celui entre un chien et un chat. Celle-là a en effet une forte connotation d’exclusion tandis que celle-ci suppose l’ouverture à l’autre et l’accueil de la différence. Forcés de convenir que le paradoxe ne fait pas nécessairement recette, les communicants recommandèrent le label « diversité culturelle », plus amène et évocateur de fertilisation croisée, cette source éprouvée de créativité. La retraite de l’Europe vers le havre de l’exception vaut-elle reconnaissance du fiasco dans lequel ont sombré les promesses que de nouvelles étiquettes allaient donner à ce vieil élixir un coup de jeune ? Ou bien les « enfants du numérique » sont-ils simplement moins crédules que leurs aînés ?

Une fanfaronnade peut cacher un couard
Seule certitude, nos enfants se sentent suffisamment éclairés pour prendre la diversité par décret pour ce qu’elle est, c’est-à-dire un étrange subterfuge destiné à éliminer toute création incompatible avec la batterie de critères définis et appliqués par de hauts fonctionnaires habiles à distinguer et financer les œuvres qui portent haut les couleurs de la nation. Sous la feuille de figue de l’exception la déchiqueteuse de l’exclusion peinait à faire figure de pépinière de talent. Les gouvernements décidèrent dès lors de s’en passer et d’assumer le vrai visage d’une politique qui revient à s’exempter des règles du commerce international… que vous le vouliez ou non, déclara-t-on au gouvernement américain en une réplique sans doute apprise dans les cours de négociation par la force. Mais quelle est précisément la force de la main européenne? Sur une toile de fond constellée de preuves que l’exception culturelle a fait son temps, trois évolutions récentes méritent l’attention.

Trancher le nœud gordien
L’exception culturelle est née en 1994 de la double allégation d’ostracisme des salles de cinéma américaines à l’encontre des films européens et de l’avantage concurrentiel déloyal conféré à Hollywood par son marché intérieur aussi vaste qu’homogène. Son mécanisme de prédilection est le Fonds de soutien géré par le Centre National de la Cinématographie (CNC). Ce joyau a perdu récemment de son éclat à la suite d’un rapport du Conseil des Prélèvements obligatoires (CPO) – une division de l’éminente Cour des Comptes – érigeant le CNC en symbole des errements de la fiscalité dite affectée.

Désastreux en soi, ce verdict ne pouvait tomber plus mal. En effet, les accusations portées contre tous ces organismes qui se comportent en électrons libres sont gravissimes : « La fiscalité affectée se révèle coûteuse pour les finances publiques… Par ailleurs, son absence de contrôle par le Parlement porte non seulement atteinte au fondement de la démocratie parlementaire mais s’oppose également à la nécessité d’une gestion rigoureuse des deniers publics, particulièrement importante en période de crise budgétaire ».

L’affectation de ressources fiscales est une dérogation au principe d’universalité budgétaire – dont découle la non-affectation des recettes budgétaires – inscrit en droit français depuis le XIXème siècle. Plus grave pour notre démonstration, le CPO fait du CNC l’emblème de ces dérives. Le constat n’est rien moins qu’accablant : six catégories d’accises (sur les billets de cinéma, la location de vidéo, la télédistribution, etc) ont propulsé ses recettes de 46% entre 2007 et 2011, pendant que le budget général de l’Etat diminuait de 2%. Si l’Etat a déjà prélevé 150 millions d’euros sur les provisions du CNC, le CPO recommande néanmoins de plafonner les taxes affectées.

Un malheur n’arrive jamais seul
L’« Inspection Générale des Finances » a réservé le mois dernier au CNC une autre volée de bois vert sous la forme d’un rapport intitulé « Pour des aides simples et efficaces au service de la compétitivité ». Face à une hausse de 80% des recettes du CNC entre 2001 et 2010 (de 415 millions d’euros à 700 millions) dont l’essentiel revient à un « effet d’aubaine » qui trouve son origine dans les prélèvements sur les services de télévision (TST-D), le rapport constate une « aisance budgétaire incontestable qui a vu sa capacité d’autofinancement croître de 21,5 millions d’euros en 2007 à 134,6 millions en 2011».  Les auteurs – un membre de ce prestigieux corps d’Etat et le président de l’une des premières régions françaises – recommandent que les recettes du CNC soient ramenées à leur niveau de 2008, c’est-à-dire 550 millions d’euros. Les revenus générés par la TST-D supérieurs à son niveau de 2008 seraient reversés au budget général de l’Etat.

Ces deux rapports aussi indépendants que séparés croquent l’exception culturelle en mère de toutes les tactiques de soutien, lesquelles reposent sur une suspension des règles, celles du commerce international mais aussi celles d’une saine fiscalité. Les adeptes de la fiction sous toutes ses formes avaient bien compris qu’une œuvre culturelle ne se savoure  qu’une fois provisoirement suspendu le doute quant à la réalité des mondes où ils sont invités à pénétrer.

Ces révélations d’experts indépendants leur montrent que la création se nourrit aussi de la suspension permanente des principes de bonne gestion budgétaire. Certes ancienne, cette désinvolture a longtemps été masquée par la prospérité économique. Mais la crise est si profonde et durable que les autorités chargées de surveiller la gestion des deniers de l’Etat ont décidé de vider l’abcès et de troquer le style feutré de l’administration pour une attitude plus cavalière qui reflète celle des agissements dont elles sont les témoins.

Les effets pervers de la régulation
Un autre rapport aurait dû faire grand bruit, celui du Sénateur Plancade consacré à l’impact de l’exception culturelle sur la production télévisé. Publié le 30 mai et passé depuis sous silence, ce document dresse un bilan sans concession des décrets Tasca. La production est atomisée à travers une pléthore de micro-sociétés dont 10% seulement emploient plus de 10 salariés (eux-mêmes dix fois moins nombreux que les intermittents dans l’ensemble du secteur) pour un résultat total qui n’atteint pas la moitié de celui du Royaume-Uni ou le tiers de celui de l’Allemagne; les exportations françaises ont chuté de 25% entre 2001 et 2011 ; 7 des 10 meilleures audiences vont aux productions américaines.

Entendu par M. Plancade, le CNC suggère une explication à cette débâcle: « L’une des conséquences du soutien à la diversité est un certain natalisme qui n’aide pas à structurer le secteur autour de grands champions ». Non seulement les paradoxes ne font pas recette mais les politiques qu’ils inspirent sont condamnées à l’échec.

La section II (c) consacrée aux effets pervers de la régulation conclut : « La faiblesse de la fiction française ne correspond pas à l’idée qu’il [le rapporteur] se fait de l’exception culturelle, qui a précisément pour objectif de permettre aux cultures nationales d’exprimer leur originalité et leurs singularités, même dans les marchés domestiques où il est moins aisé de rentabiliser la production… Votre rapporteur considère que l’on est dans une situation où tout le monde a conscience que les règles doivent changer mais où chacun craint d’y perdre des avantages. Cette spirale de l’inertie pourrait se révéler fatale à la création française ».

Dans le droit fil du caractère visionnaire de ce rapport, la section III s’intéresse à l’avenir et en particulier à la « révolution des usages ».  L’un des experts auditionnés déclare que « l’arrivée de la télévision connectée est celle d’un monde dérégulé ayant accès au même public (…), le passage du broadcast au broadband fera exploser notre monde ». Le rapport Plancade désigne le Royaume-Uni ou les Etats-Unis comme des benchmarks pleins d’enseignements. Son appel en faveur de l’« impératif de circulation des œuvres », y compris en ligne, prend le contre-pied de l’esprit originel d’une exception culturelle vouée à faire échec à Hollywood et non pas à s’inspirer de ses succès. Enfin, retrouvant les accents de Danton incitant l’Assemblée révolutionnaire à manifester « de l’audace, encore de l’audace, toujours de l’audace », M. Plancade conclut : « Personne ne tire profit d’une réglementation qui ne favorise ni l’audace ni la mise en commun des forces au service de l’ambition culturelle».

L’industrie audiovisuelle européenne ne manque pas d’atouts pour conquérir les marchés mondiaux
Pourtant la véritable novation réside dans cet appel vibrant : « Fort de ces convictions, votre groupe de travail a considéré qu’une politique industrielle ambitieuse devait être menée au service de la télévision française ». Le vrai visage de la culture audiovisuelle est ainsi dévoilé, celui d’un secteur industriel – dit de l’entertainment – qui pèse de plus en plus lourd en termes de PNB et d’emplois. Les croisés d’un statut spécial pour la culture – celui de biens et services non-ordinaires échangés selon des modes non-ordinaires – se sentiront trahis. Mais ils en viendront vite à admettre qu’abandonner la perspective élitiste de l’exception pour celle d’un marché comme les autres au service de millions de consommateurs est le chemin le plus sûr en vue de découpler la créativité de tous les Européens et de leur permettre de faire jeu égal avec le reste du monde.

A plus d’un égard, le credo des forçats de l’exception culturelle évoque celui des augures qui, à la fin du siècle dernier, se délectaient à prédire la disparition de France Télécom sous l’effet combiné de sa privatisation et de l’ouverture du marché français des télécommunications. Quinze ans plus tard, Orange fait la course en tête en France et sur les principaux marchés mondiaux… L’expérience montre que négocier en position de force a des chances de s’avérer tactiquement supérieur à éviter la concurrence loyale ou à en modifier les règles.

Si le pays où l’exception culturelle a vu le jour commence à appeler chat un chat, si l’on y prend conscience du fait que cet édifice hors normes doit être révisé à l’aune de la crise qui fait rage, si commence à fondre la complaisance de toute une nation à l’égard de ce frein auto-administré à sa propre créativité, alors l’espoir est permis de voir bientôt la France troquer la lourde armure censée assurer sa protection contre les invasions prétendument barbares pour la combinaison du surfeur à l’affût des déferlantes de l’innovation. Délivrés de ce boulet, le berceau des « Lumières » et l’Europe ne s’en porteront que mieux.

Si seulement les Français voulaient bien accorder à la juste gouvernance l’intérêt qu’ils prêtent à la culture ou l’éducation… A cet égard, Xavier Niel et quelques autres vedettes des entreprises du Web investissent des fonds personnels dans l’ »Ecole 42 », nouveau concept de formation que jugera délibérément provocateur un système éducatif hautement centralisé et dominé par l’Etat. C’est la première tentative de cette envergure en vue de combler le déficit en emplois numériques qui se fonde sur des techniques d’apprentissage situant l’étudiant au cœur de leur dispositif. Elle pourrait bien redonner des couleurs à la mobilité sociale. Elle prouve en tout cas que l’esprit révolutionnaire n’est pas éteint dans la patrie qui pour sa fête nationale célèbre la prise de la Bastille.

L’Europe de la Culture est de retour. Débarrassée de ses complexes et de ses béquilles, elle est portée jusqu’aux extrémités du monde par la vague numérique, n’en déplaise aux bureaucrates qui rêvaient de la parquer pour l’éternité dans le pré carré dont ils avaient dessiné pour elle les contours. A bas la culture des formulaires ! Vive la liberté culturelle!

European culture: the big switch from exception to revolution

Posted by digital-europe on 22/07/13
Tags: , ,  

On the face of it, the cultural exception won a major victory on 14 June when the Council of the European Union unanimously agreed to keep this issue off the TTIP negotiating table. On a closer look though, the cultural exception is going through a life-threatening crisis generated by both endogenous and exogenous drivers.

The deceptive journey from exception to diversity and back
From the outset it felt farfetched to argue that exception and culture make a smoother mix than chalk and cheese. Indeed the former smacks of exclusion whereas the latter is all about including and sharing. In a rare concession to the fact that oxymora don’t sell well, spin doctors prescribed that the same policy should operate as “cultural diversity”, a name more amicable and more attuned to crossbreeding, this proven way to enhance creativity. Has Europe retreated back to the grounds of exception because this old wine poured into the new bottles of diversity still tasted stale and anachronistic? Could it be that digital natives are better than their elders at getting the scent of snake oil?

Braggarts are rarely made of steel
This much is certain: digital natives feel empowered enough to take top-down diversity for what it is, i.e. a weird contraption meant to crowd out creation that fails to meet the strict criteria defined and enforced by high officials who know where to grant license and money to carry the flag of national culture. When it became clear that the fig-leaf painted over the exclusion shredder to have it look like a talent incubator had fizzled out, governments decided to do away with it and bravely to display the real face of a policy that boils down to immunity from – or suspension of – rules-based international trade… whether you like it or not, the US government was told last month. It defies logic to pretend to clench victory by suspending the rules of a global game while playing. Some would call it self-defeating arrogance. Europe has a more positive name for it: negotiating from strength.

But how strong is the EU’s hand in this respect? As more signals pop up by the day that the tidal wave of digital technology has made the cultural exception completely obsolete, three telltales are worth particular consideration.

Cutting the Gordian knot
The cultural exception was born in 1994 of the twin undocumented allegation of ostracism on the part of US theater owners against European films and of Hollywood’s unfair trade advantage originating in a huge, homogeneous domestic market. The system run by France’s Centre National de la Cinématographie (CNC) to support French movie making used to stand out as the jewel in this crown of dubious glory until last week when it lost most of its lustre in one devastating swoop:  the “Council on delegated levying” (CPO) – a branch of the highly regarded Court of Auditors – singled out its practices as exemplar of a parallel tax system gone awry.

This blistering and particularly untimely blow brings a most unseemly charge against all the government agencies concerned: “They sap the very foundations of parliamentary democracy… They run contrary to the rigorous management of public funds which has never mattered so much as [now when] France is undergoing a severe budget crisis”. A dispensation from the cardinal principle of budget universalism whereby all tax revenues should feed the State’s overall budget is the abuse the CPO wants to unseat. As if to add cultural insult to financial injury, the CNC is deemed to be “emblematic of the drift generated by this ill-conceived delegation of sovereignty.” Six kinds of levies – on theater admission, video rental, distribution of TV services, etc – drove its revenues up by 46% between 2007 and 2011 while France’s budget was shrinking by 2%. Although the government has already siphoned €150m off provisions made by the CNC, the CPO recommends that a ceiling should be put on the revenues from this delegated tax scheme as a more permanent sanity measure.

When it rains it pours
The “General Inspectorate of the Treasury” served the CNC another deluge of flak last month in the form of a report entitled: “Towards simple and effective support to competitiveness”. Having reckoned that the CNC revenues increased 80% from €415m in 2001 to €700m in 2010, having credited most of this spectacular hike to the “dead-weight effect” originating in levies on TV services (TST-D), the report comes to question the very magnitude of a “budget comfort zone” inflated by cash flow soaring from €21.5m in 2007 to €134.6m in 2011.

The signatories – a top official from the Inspectorate and the president of a key regional government – dare recommend that the CNC revenues be brought back and frozen to the level they reached in 2008, i.e. €550m.  Amounts generated by TST-D above its 2008 level (€94m) should be transferred to the State budget.

These two separate reports cast the cultural exception as the mother of all tactics based on “easy relief by suspending the rules”, whether in the trade or tax area. Fiction buffs knew already that culture would thrive on a temporary suspension of disbelief: but the thorough scrutiny led by these independent bodies shows that culture can also trump honesty and do with a permanent suspension of belief in the rules that have secured good governance since the dawn of parliamentary democracy.

While this sleight of hand had gone mostly unnoticed when the economy was doing well, the riding has turned so rough lately that the authorities in charge of overseeing the management of public moneys have no more qualms about raising the alarm with unusual persistence and matching cavalier attitude, at least by the standards of a French administration not prone to self-flagellation.

A regulation turned perverse
The report released on 30 May 2013 by the French Senate is as seminal and scathing. Focusing on the impact of the cultural exception, it has been kept under a shroud of secrecy thus far. Rapporteur Jean-Pierre Plancade zeroes in on the most blatant unintended effect of the so-called Tasca decrees. Fragmented across a fabric of micro-companies – only 10% of them employ more than 10 permanent staff, themselves outnumbered across the board by temps by a factor of ten – TV production has performed poorly: it hardly reaches one half or one third of UK or German competition respectively; French international sales have dipped 25% between 2001 and 2011; 7 out of 10 best ratings go to US series. The CNC volunteered an explanation to this rout: pro-birth policies mix badly with the Malthusian environment that national champions need to compete effectively on the world scene. If oxymora are a tough sell, the public policies they inspire are downright doomed.

Having addressed “the perverse effects of regulation”, section II (c) concludes: “This does not match his [Rapporteur Plancade’s] view of a cultural exception aimed to allow national culture to express its uniqueness even in domestic markets where profit is elusive… This ill-fated spiral of inertia elicits widespread admission that rules have to be changed”.

True to the forward-looking thrust of this report, section III addresses the future in general and the “usage revolution” in particular. One of the experts heard by Senator Plancade bluntly stated that “connected TV is ushering in a deregulated world vying for the same audiences as those hooked to traditional TV” and predicted that “the switch from broadcast to broadband will blow up our universe”. The report points to the UK or the US as benchmarks worth examination. Its overall advocacy for maximum exposure of audiovisual works – including online – jars with the original spirit of the cultural exception meant to erect barriers against dreaded Hollywood, not to try and match its edge. In the same earth-shattering vein, the report calls for regulation likely to foster boldness!

Europe’s  audiovisual entertainment business can win the battle for global eyeballs
But the most innovative piece lies with a definite recommendation that fully-fledged industrial policy should drive France’s cultural policy. The true face of audiovisual culture – i.e. entertainment business with significant impact on a nation’s jobs and GDP – is thus conceded. Those claiming a special status for culture – no ordinary goods to be traded in no ordinary way – may feel betrayed at first sight. On second thought, they will probably admit that turning culture from an elite-crafted exception to a mass-driven mainstream business is the best way to unleash and harness the creativity of all Europeans and to bring our continent on a par with other regions of the world.

In more than one respect, the call from the reactionary bunch behind the cultural exception echoes that of the scaremongers who, back in 1998, predicted the death of France Telecom should the government share ownership or the French market open to competition. Fifteen years on, Orange is still a heavy-weight in France and in other markets… Likewise, negotiating from real strength stands better chances to prove a winning tactic than shunning or bending the rules of fair competition.

When a cat starts being called a cat in the birthplace of the cultural exception, when it dawns upon French authorities that the magnitude of the economic and social crisis may warrant both a return to budget sanity and a drastic revision of this whole construct, when an entire nation’s enduring leniency towards a self-inflicted drag on its own creativity begins to melt down, then there is hope that Europe will soon trade the straitjacket that has been stifling its culture for the dressed down gear – regulation-wise – that will make sure we ride the wave of unfettered innovation successfully.

After all, it only takes the French to consider good governance as seriously as they do culture or… education. In a sure sign of change, Xavier Niel and fellow web entrepreneurs are investing personal money in “School 42”, a new concept of training grounds willfully disruptive of France’s highly centralized, State-dominated education system. This is the first-ever attempt of this scale to address the ICT jobs mismatch by experimenting student-centric learning and to jump-start social mobility in the process.

So despite the prevailing gloom around us, the writing on the wall does not spell doom. Watch out, rest of the world: Europe is back. Down with bureaucrats’ dreams of a cultural exception! Long live the grassroots-led cultural revolution!

Roll over cultural exception, a France-led cultural revolution is marching on

Posted by digital-europe on 02/07/13
Tags: ,  

The current debate between the “reactionaries” opposing globalization and the progressives behind it somewhat smacks of the 17th century row between the old and modern schools of thought. Unlike the highly political spat sparked off between Paris and Brussels, the earlier quarrel was mostly intellectual and pitted those who rated Greek and Roman times as the high watermark of world culture against those arguing that creativity and innovation cannot but keep moving forward. Interestingly, the leader of the former camp, Nicolas Boileau, went down in history for deciding that two heads are better than one (“Du choc des idées naît la lumière”).

Four centuries on, his saying holds truer than ever: however much they enjoy clinching to the past, articulate conservatives given proper explanation may concede that the future holds more rewards than threats. At least we took it as an invitation to conjure two brilliant French minds, Pierre Lescure and Michel Serres, and to make up an imaginary conversation on how digital technology impacts culture.

A meeting of high minds

Both Serres and Lescure agree that digital technology has brought about a sea-change:

  • M. Serres, self-proclaimed “unrepentant optimist”, waxes lyrical on painting the transformational abilities of ICT. His interview of 30 December 2012 ran under the heading “A crisis? No, a brand new world is born”. Change of such tectonic magnitude, he reckons, happened only twice in history, when alphabets enabled writing and when the printing press set brain works free from hand distribution.
  • P. Lescure takes a grumpier look at the disruption inflicted to a system of support to culture that has thrived for decades behind the shield of hard-fought immunity from rules-based international trade: “Developments in information and communication technologies are calling into question and sometimes threatening a number of these measures.” Regardless, he acknowledges that “the growth in digital technologies and services is a great opportunity, both for creators who can create, produce and distribute their works more easily than in the past, and for the public who have access to a continually richer and diversified offer, which is more affordable than physical cultural products.”

Both of them would also admit that there is no more way back from the digital revolution than was when the paradigm shift to writing or printing struck.

Any problem?

None, says M. Serres whose born optimism will zero in on opportunities held by a crisis before addressing possibly related threats. He relishes trends that eluded planning such as the world population doubling twice in his own lifetime – or farmers melting down from 50% to 1% of the French workforce over the last 50 years – as mere facts of life calling for drastic adjustment. In this respect, he commends the younger generation – dubbed “Little Thumblings” to gently mock their dependency on how agile their thumbs run on handheld keyboards – on the amazing resourcefulness that makes them reinvent the use of the human brain and push it to new limits: digital technology, this plain, at times unwieldy tool for digital migrants is the very lifeline of digital natives. M. Serres believes in unfettered innovation: he contrasts the optimistic heirs of Jules Verne at the turn of the 20th century to his all too despondent or fainthearted compatriots at the dawn of the 21st century; he laments the fact that France would invariably top the rankings of those countries found agonizing over the progress induced by science and technology.

Hold your horses, digital natives!

On delivering on the remit entrusted to him by the minister of Culture, P. Lescure has dug out a full can of wiggling worms. Indeed he was expected to shore up a mind-boggling, “consistent collection of measures to support the creation, production, distribution and publication of cultural works: regulation mechanisms, financing tools, tax provisions … Some are specific to a given cultural sector (fixed book price, media release chronology, investment and broadcasting obligations, financial support for cinematographic and audiovisual production, French song quotas), whilst others have a more general range (payment for private copying, reduced VAT)”.

His litany regarding the disruptive effects of digital technology sounds like the stuff nightmares are made of: “The globalization of exchanges inherent in the Internet is allowing foreign players to emerge on the French market who escape national regulation and financing constraints. Changes in technologies and practices are undermining sources of income for designers and cultural industries: the legal online offer which is still inadequate and under remunerated, faces competition from an illegal, free and almost unlimited offer. The increase in cloud computing at the expense of storage on physical media is undermining payment for private copying.”

How not to feel helpless at the mere idea of having to fix this thicket of issues at once? Also, the sub-title showing on the roadmap he was handed out proved a self-fulfilling prophecy. His eyes riveted on the rear-view mirror captured the concerns of those constituencies that benefit the most from the cornucopia unlocked by the above described array of struts: turkeys wouldn’t vote for Christmas. In defiance to Antonio Vitorino’s forward-looking recommendations and as if eager to add insult to injury, he even suggested that private copying levies should be topped with additional burdens. Not much has changed in France since Pascal observed that a truth this side of the Pyrénées is often called a lie on the other side: only the former matters to domestic policy.

In short, M. Serres can’t wait to see all the benefits of a full-blown digital revolution, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that transforms our lives. P. Lescure takes the opposite stance: he hopes that tweaking the framework that has afforded French culture smooth funding throughout analogue times will suffice to shoehorn a suitably played down digital revolution in it. True to his masters, he went on a mission to salvage and expand the construct that underpins the cultural exception. The point that its core justification, i.e. the scarcity of quality content, is now gone is deemed to be moot at best and downright irrelevant.

The demise of scaremongers

Luckily, Cassandra’s followers have proved fallible in the past: writing has defied Socrates’ prediction that it would ruin the brain’s memory; Gutenberg’s press has not spread rebellion or spelt the end of religion. Likewise, our “Little Thumblings” yet unsullied by exception, subsidies or quotas are quietly ushering in the happy times of unfettered innovation and grassroots cultural diversity, the variety that grows from the bottom up. Indeed digital technology substitutes content shortage with unlimited choice, controlled distribution with easier and affordable access to a “continually richer and diversified offer”, in P. Lescure’s own words. Once turned a foregone conclusion, cultural diversity needs only support to match, i.e. considerably downsized. Quod erat demonstrandum. Is it time then to trim the maze of rules and regulations that suited the analogue era? Not until control freaks quit the habit of liking the flavor of cultural diversity decided rue de Valois better, presumably.

The equalizing merits of digital technology

Not surprisingly, this fictitious dialogue based on actual quotes from Michel Serres and Pierre Lescure reveals that they hold different views on how freedom – and particularly the freedom to create – fares on informing our social and economic life. In all fairness, the former thinker enjoys the luxury of casting a soaring bird’s eye on these developments whereas the latter was on a tighter leash. At the end of the day the cultural revolution enabled by digital technology is everybody’s challenge

- “Frenchness” is no liability, only bureaucracy is. As illustrated by the Lumière brothers, there was a time when French cinema didn’t owe its world fame to the high-flying caste of subsidy-hunters and other support-seekers that holds the EU hostage to the past.

- “Little Thumblings” have no monopoly, not even an edge. Age is immaterial: ask Michel Serres!

Digital Agenda Assembly: what can you do for Europe?

The Digital Agenda Assembly took place in Dublin on 19-20 June. DIGITALEUROPE attended Workshop 1 on the Grand Coalition and Workshop 4 on technology enablers. Overall, jobs and education came out as leading drivers of the Digital Agenda.

Take John Higgins’ pitch to Workshop 1.

Having urged participants to define a digital job – just in sufficient detail to support the analysis of what and where are the biggest gaps – DIGITALEUROPE’s Director-General  asked the audience to agree this suggestion: “jobs that create or significantly exploit digital technologies to deliver social or economic benefit in Europe”. As a next step, we will do that analysis and bring some project management to bear – pledges are necessary, but not sufficient. “Our project must draw in the best actors in the member states and this isn’t always just the digital champion”, John said. “Many countries have employer-led bodies tackling the issues very professionally and with great expertise. We need to tap in to that know-how” he went on to say.

Or take Workshop 4 which discovered that, in the words of its rapporteur, UK MP Chi Onwurah: “Our long search is over: the cloud is the killer app of broadband”. Most of the speakers she moderated so skillfully had pointed to education as one of the key drivers of demand for broadband, from BT’s Colm O’Neill quoting it as a prime example of demand stimulation in Ireland to Warwick University’s Jonathan Cave ranking it along with health as the most compelling reason to have broadband at home.

Or take the plenary:
- in his capacity of Digital Champion for Ireland, Lord David Puttnam lambasted the complacency of some teachers, praised youth’ creativity and… generated a flurry of tweets.
- by showcasing Rovio’s Harri Koponen and Jordan Casey, 13-year old CEO of mobile games start-up Casey Games, Vice President Kroes and those she called “the digital Presidency” confirmed that the youth and their favourite enhancers of creativity and learning sit front and center of the Digital Agenda for Europe. In keeping with her vision last year of a Grand Coalition for a job-rich recovery, the Vice President will probably be reminded as the Member of the Barroso II Commission that did the most to salvage a “potentially lost generation”.

In his closing address, Director General Robert Madelin paraphrased John F. Kennedy and urged the audience not to ask what Europe can do for them but what they can do for Europe. In essence, all the resources (broadband, talent, entrepreneurship) are available for proper alignment and effective tapping by a coalition of stakeholders who care about the future of Europe.

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