Last week’s Resolution on the Digital Single Market made noise, but did it really contribute to the debate?
As representatives of Europe’s digital entrepreneurs, the Application Developers Alliance is always pleased when the European Parliament is discussing the Digital Single Market – a concept that our members fervently hope will soon be a reality. But last week’s non-binding resolution on ‘Supporting Consumer Rights in the Digital Single Market’ was a missed opportunity – as media and other observers focused all their attention on the call for the European Commission “to consider proposals with the aim of unbundling search engines from other commercial services” as an attempt to influence the Commission’s antitrust investigation of Google.
Beyond the public controversy about Parliament influencing Commission investigations, the Alliance fears that this vote is an unfortunate use of the Digital Single Market brand and may also be an unwelcome signal against digital innovators and creators. There are many real issues surrounding the Digital Single Market that are worthy of Parliamentary time and energy, such as figuring out what is needed to create what comes next, after search engines or social media, for instance.
As we pointed out just a few weeks ago, the web, once a singular digital distribution model, is now mobile and multifaceted. Policy makers must start taking the impact and opportunities for European entrepreneurs that are arising from this change seriously, and when first reading the title of the Resolution we hoped that it was a call for our policies to catch up with industry reality.
European developers comprise a growing industry, which needs strong reassurance that EU conditions will permit companies to thrive and scale up. Too many European entrepreneurs have moved to the US, and we often fail to consider why. The fragmentation of contract, data protection, copyright and consumer rules is the first factor that should have been highlighted in this European Parliament text. Instead, policy-makers are signaling to entrepreneurs that success can be risky.
The missed opportunity was to send out strong Parliamentary signals to the Commission on what is needed to create and promote European competitors across emerging tech markets such as the Internet of Things, apps and wearable technologies. The focus was on European frustration with today, instead of European opportunity tomorrow.
A Resolution that truly focused on Digital Single Market issues would address what European developers and digital entrepreneurs really need, namely:
- A market where creativity is rewarded in all sizes and shapes and regardless of origin;
- More harmonization and one-stop shops in a variety of policy areas;
- Greater access to start-up capital; and,
- A commitment to work hard on developing the right skills and mind-set.
By not focusing on what is really needed – i.e. simplification and the rule of law - the European Parliament just added a layer of uncertainty to an already fuzzy digital marketplace. President Jean-Claude Juncker recognized that the reasons Europe is lagging in investment directly stem from investors’ “lack of confidence, credibility and trust” in the market. Last week’s resolution surely will not improve this situation, nor did it contribute to the tireless efforts of the Commission and Parliament to create a robust European digital single market in the first place.
But let’s hope that the European Parliament now gets on with its work of building a climate that fosters and nurtures European entrepreneurs such as those the Alliance represents. This is Europe’s challenge for the next several years and we look forward to strong European Parliament leadership toward this goal.