DIGITALEUROPE

A ray of hope?

Media seem to go by the unwritten dogma that only difference in opinion, not consensus, is worth the headlines. Regardless, agreeing common principles has always been a prerequisite to joint action or effective progress in the real world. This at least holds true for the European Union, this innovative construct of national governments whose collective authority, no match to that of a federation, looks as fragmented as its much vaunted and mostly elusive single market for services.

True to form, trigger-happy journalists arbitrate the growth vs austerity match, oftentimes painting it with France vs Germany colours for the sake of catching easier attention. Meanwhile, Mr Schäuble is gradually shedding part of his earlier budgetary intransigence and Mr Westerwelle is outright sowing the seeds of an ambitious reset of the EU in his interview to “Le Monde” on 23 May 2012.

The digital industries which have been contributing growth and jobs in Europe cannot but take heart on watching this harbinger of improved harmony between two leading Member States. Not only should Mr Westerwelle be commended on throwing his weight to heal self-defeating divisions with France but the six actions he suggests follow an impeccable line of economic reasoning.

To comment on just a few, the emphasis he puts on urgently tapping unspent structural and cohesion funds should look compelling to all. In the same vein of picking the low-hanging fruit, Mr Westerwelle insists on completing the Single Market, with an explicit reference to digital economy. This particular point happens to be remarkably well-documented by the European Policy Centre which has reckoned that achieving the digital single market would generate 4% additional GDP growth over the next ten years. Equally compelling is Mr Westerwelle’s call to enhance telecommunications infrastructures, thus echoing our advocacy based on the fact that a key feature of digital technology is to enable a wealth of other sectors downstream.

Inspired by the twin pillar of industrial production, Mr Westerwelle suggests facilitating access to capital and addressing the second key factor, human resources, by giving priority to education and youth employment. This is spot on and strikes a particular chord with all signatories of a letter sent last week to four Members of the Commission to support Vice President Kroes’ call for a Grand Coalition of stakeholders aimed to secure the right supply of skills needed to serve continuing innovation and creativity across Europe in the digital era (see here).

Obviously we also support Mr Westerwelle when he advocates more, not less, unfettered international trade, after all three quarters of the world economy is outside the EU.

However loud the sound-bites generated by recurring spats between figure-heads of EU politics may resonate, they are just a side-show. Pointers like Mr Westerwelle’s interview deserve more attention. Although they are way too promising and reasonable to ever make it to the front page, let alone prime time news, the compelling logic and the seeds of future consensus they carry do muster up energies and pull in the right direction. And that’s our only hope of seeing the end of the tunnel.

Media seem to go by the unwritten dogma that only difference in opinion, not consensus, is worth the headlines. Regardless, agreeing common principles has always been a prerequisite to joint action or effective progress in the real world. This at least holds true for the European Union, this innovative construct of national governments whose collective authority, no match to that of a federation, looks as fragmented as its much vaunted and mostly elusive single market for services.

True to form, trigger-happy journalists arbitrate the growth vs austerity match, oftentimes painting it with France vs Germany colours for the sake of catching easier attention. Meanwhile, Mr Schäuble is gradually shedding part of his earlier budgetary intransigence and Mr Westerwelle is outright sowing the seeds of an ambitious reset of the EU in his interview to “Le Monde” on 23 May 2012.

The digital industries which have been contributing growth and jobs in Europe cannot but take heart on watching this harbinger of improved harmony between two leading Member States. Not only should Mr Westerwelle be commended on throwing his weight to heal self-defeating divisions with France but the six actions he suggests follow an impeccable line of economic reasoning.

To comment on just a few, the emphasis he puts on urgently tapping unspent structural and cohesion funds should look compelling to all. In the same vein of picking the low-hanging fruit, Mr Westerwelle insists on completing the Single Market, with an explicit reference to digital economy. This particular point happens to be remarkably well-documented by the European Policy Centre which has reckoned that achieving the digital single market would generate 4% additional GDP growth over the next ten years. Equally compelling is Mr Westerwelle’s call to enhance telecommunications infrastructures, thus echoing our advocacy based on the fact that a key feature of digital technology is to enable a wealth of other sectors downstream.

Inspired by the twin pillar of industrial production, Mr Westerwelle suggests facilitating access to capital and addressing the second key factor, human resources, by giving priority to education and youth employment. This is spot on and strikes a particular chord with all signatories of a letter sent last week to four Members of the Commission to support Vice President Kroes’ call for a Grand Coalition of stakeholders aimed to secure the right supply of skills needed to serve continuing innovation and creativity across Europe in the digital era (see here).

Obviously we also support Mr Westerwelle when he advocates more, not less, unfettered international trade, after all three quarters of the world economy is outside the EU.

However loud the sound-bites generated by recurring spats between figure-heads of EU politics may resonate, they are just a side-show. Pointers like Mr Westerwelle’s interview deserve more attention. Although they are way too promising and reasonable to ever make it to the front page, let alone prime time news, the compelling logic and the seeds of future consensus they carry do muster up energies and pull in the right direction. And that’s our only hope of seeing the end of the tunnel.

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