12 Oct 2019

Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl: What can the EU leadership do to foster a harmonised digital single market?

The groundwork for a digital single market is partly done, but there is still a long way to go, and we are still waiting for a harmonised digital market to become a reality. The arrival of the new European Commission serves as a chance to reevaluate our accomplishments in this area. I encourage the Commission to walk the talk, put the money where their mouth is and not fall into the trap of protectionism on the way.

Let’s look at the facts. Only 8% of European SMEs are trading across Member State borders. European investment in AI innovation is only 1/10 of the investment seen in the US, and 1/6 of what is seen in China, yet the Digital Europe Programme is only €9,2 billion over 7 years, whereas agricultural subsidies are around €300 billion.

But what can we do?


Only 8% of European SMEs are trading across Member State borders

Firstly, Europe has a very innovative business and diverse, innovative society. More can be done to invest in digitising Europe’s strength positions, such as manufacturing, public services, healthcare, transportation, finance and energy. Digital companies grow 2.5 times faster than non-digital companies, so let us ear-mark huge amounts of money in the new investment framework to boost digitisation and digital skills for these sectors.

Secondly, let’s not even remotely fall into the trap of increased protectionism. Europe can boast many brands – Siemens, Nokia, Ericsson, SAP and Schneider Electric, to name a few – who have grown through international partnerships and relied on an open market.

Thirdly, Europe has robust and well-establish regulatory frameworks, covering to a great extent virtually all areas that can be regulated. However, many parts of these frameworks are either not yet implemented or implemented inconsistently in the various Member States, leading to a very fragmented marketplace that slows down growth in Europe, especially for SMEs. Let’s use the frameworks we have and ultimately focus on the real goal: to create one European competitive and innovative market, that delivers growth and benefits to society.

Europe has a chance to take the lead in creating an open, innovative, diverse, social economy that drives tech innovation as a competitive advantage.

The world needs that leader more than ever. Someone to take the lead in the WTO e-commerce initiative; someone who drives a rules-based trade environment; someone who does not close borders, but who stands firm on global competitiveness through international cooperation, someone who aims to protect ethical AI that does not limit innovation. Someone who dares to listen and shape governance together with stakeholders, including big and small companies, public sector, researchers and citizens.

A stellar example is of the European Commission’s High-Level Expert Group on AI and its piloting phase of testing trustworthy AI assessment methods.

I encourage the new European leadership to stay focused and replace overregulation with agile policymaking. I also urge companies, associations and civil society to engage in consultations and facilitate a smart regulation process. A competitive and innovative Europe that allows its companies to scale up in the global market is our common vision. Let’s continue an effective dialogue to make it happen.


Wishing you all the best,

Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl

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