European leaders aim to create ‘Digital Single Market’ as part of stimulus plan

Editor’s Note: Seattle-based writer and consultant Matt Fikse filed this dispatch from Europe, where he’s tracking the talks over the economic crisis.

Brussels, Jan. 30: The world hopes for leaders to emerge from today’s European Summit with some coherent action in the long-running European economic crisis. Based on a leaked draft of the expected summit conclusions, tech companies attempting to enter and do business in Europe will welcome one thing: a boosted commitment to the rapid development of a Digital Single Market across the EU.

The internet economy amounts to only 3.4% of the Europe-wide GDP, according to the European Commission, well behind countries like the United States. Europe is “still a patchwork of different laws, rules, standards and practices, often with little or no interoperability” according to a Commission report released two weeks ago. The report concludes that “the practical difficulties related to cross-border transactions (payments, deliveries, dispute resolution, risk of abuse) discourage people from taking full advantage of the internet to purchase or supply their goods and services.”

For anyone who has attempted an Amazon order in Europe or tried roaming with a mobile phone, that much is crystal clear.

According to the draft summit communiqué, the Council will call for rapid implementation of its e-commerce action plan, a new proposal on establishing e-signature standards, and agreement on online dispute resolution and, finally, streamlining that roaming thing, all by June of 2012. It will also look for adoption of standardization agreements, simplification of accounting requirements and streamlining of public procurement rules in an effort to stimulate small business.

And judging by how swiftly they’ve managed to sort out the Eurocrisis …

Matt Fikse is a consultant, former CEO and past Director of Special Projects for the Mayor of Seattle. He write about business, politics and urban issues.

  • jason warren

    This won’t have critical mass unless there is harmonization of digital privacy and contracts regulations across the ‘single market’ – there’s lots of impactful variation that (at least in theory, but not always in enforcement) makes European countries a risk/pain the ass to offer services in.