A Sting Exclusive: “The competitiveness of Europe depends on a digital single market”, EPP President Joseph Daul highlights live from European Business Summit 2015

Written by Joseph Daul, the President of European People’s Party (EPP)

Mr Joseph Daul is the President of European People's Party (EPP)

Mr Joseph Daul is the President of European People’s Party (EPP)

Our lives are digital. This has changed the way we interact, work, produce, consume and live. We must embrace this digital revolution, as it can lead to sustainable growth and jobs for European entrepreneurs, employees and citizens. Our American friends are using new digital services production models and Europe should also seize this opportunity. The competitiveness of Europe depends on a digital single market supported by regulations, when needed, to create fair competition. Change is appearing on many fronts, including people-to-people services and e-commerce. We need to jump into the digital revolution, we need to harness it for our own good, and we need to make certain that our labour force has the e-skills necessary to succeed.

How did you start your day? You checked your emails on a smartphone, fidgeted on your tablet to read the news, ordered something online or played one of those addictive games. Our lives are digital. But do you get upset when you cannot watch a video from another country or when it becomes overly complicated to order an online purchase from another EU country? I do. What can be done about it? The answer is clear: a digital single market.

This was a main commitment of the European People’s Party (EPP) during the campaign for last year’s European Parliament elections. Our lead candidate, Jean-Claude Juncker, who now heads the European Commission, has put the digital single market high on his agenda. A united digital market means jobs and growth for Europe’s entrepreneurs, employees and citizens.

Digitalisation has changed the way we interact with each other. It first transformed the industry and is now revolutionising the way services are produced. Europe must embrace this change. People-to-people services, such as innovative services in transportation, care for elderly people or accommodation, use technology in a way that reduces transaction costs and increases the efficiency of resource allocation. Our American friends are already using new digital service production models and Europe should also seize this opportunity. Let’s turn this challenge into a chance to foster Europe’s economy while at the same time benefitting European consumers.

How can we promote pioneering business models originating in Europe if our attitude is ‘ban first and ask questions later’? We tend to prohibit even before exploring new possibilities. One of the keys is fair competition. This implies re-regulation, de-regulation and in some cases new regulations in order to support innovation. Services need to be more open to competition. This will create opportunities for Small and Medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) too.

eSkills define our future competitiveness. We also need to give European citizens the chance to acquire new skills in order to adapt to the digitalised labour market. According to projections by the European Commission, there will be 900,000 open vacancies in the European ICT sector by 2020. This is a direct consequence of not training enough ICT-skilled employees. The rest of the world is not going to wait for us. Technology is developing quickly and industry and services are becoming more and more digital. This needs to be addressed urgently.

We need your help. The involvement of our businesses and business leaders is crucial. Companies should provide more trainings on e-skills so that our citizens cannot only find jobs, but truly succeed in the digital economy. That is why you should join the European Commission’s initiative, the ‘Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs’! However, this must also start much earlier. Schools and universities should adapt their curricula by integrating e-skills to respond to the quickly changing nature of knowledge and society, where the relevant skills are taught rather than how to learn facts by heart. The EPP will push for the reform of education systems, and back initiatives that will help unemployed people to find jobs. For example, the Massive Open Online Courses could be integrated into the youth guarantee as a way to encourage young people to learn new e-skills. The EPP will also support the work of NGOs to encourage youth and unemployed, especially the disadvantaged, to get excited about ICT. Education and skills are and must remain the stairway to prosperity!

Digitalisation is also changing the way we consume. E-commerce is growing rapidly, but many obstacles remain. We need to harmonise rules so that both businesses and consumers know their responsibilities and rights. The Common European Sales Law is a good tool to facilitate cross-border commerce giving consumers more choices and fair prices. We have also to make sure that tax policies do not hamper e-commerce. That’s why the EPP is pushing for a new approach to the EU VAT-rules on business-to-consumer sales of digital products. We want to make it as easy as possible for SMEs and micro companies to sell to all customers in the European Single Market.

The digital revolution we are experiencing will shape our future as profoundly as the industrial revolution changed the world. We interact, we work, we produce, we consume, and we live in a different way, in a new way, in a digital way. This means that we also need to think in a digital way. We have just started to see the effects of diminishing transaction costs due to the Internet. This is only the beginning. We need to pick up the pace and live up to the challenges. It is now time to put our focus on the reforms that will bring new growth, support innovation and create the most digitally savvy employees in the world. We need to do this together: citizens, teachers, politicians and businesses must make a common effort for the wellbeing of our society!

How will you start your day tomorrow? Embrace the digital era and maybe try some coding.

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