The European Commission has recently organized the second edition of its annual #Digital4EUStakeholder Forum in Brussels. The one-day event, which was attended by more than 500 participants from across Europe, focused on the progress made in creating a Digital Single Market in Europe. Ecommerce Europe’s Secretary General Marlene ten Ham and Policy Officers Stefanie Ros and Luca Cassetti attended the Forum, which featured keynote speeches by Günther Oettinger, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, and Roberto Viola, Director-General of DG Connect.
Supporting the Digital Economy by breaking down barriers to cross-border trade
Among the many barriers to the digital economy, speakers specifically addressed Europe’s shortage of ICT-skilled human capital or “e-skills”, e-Identification and authentication. Concerning European SMEs selling goods and/or services online across borders, speakers noted that, although a steady growth can be observed, cross-border e-commerce remains behind expectations and lacks the growth and uptake it enjoys domestically. Vincenzo Spiezia, a Senior Economist from the OECD, noted that, in order to foster cross-border e-commerce, the European Union and national governments needed to address the practical and regulatory issues that Ecommerce Europe has highlighted in 2015’s survey “Barriers to Growth”. According to Ecommerce Europe’s 2015 pan-European survey of retailers selling goods and/or services across borders online, the three biggest hurdles preventing traders from going cross-border are the fragmented regulatory and legal landscape; substantial differences amongst taxation systems, VAT and/or customs; and issues of logistics and distribution.
Delivering the Digital Single Market
The 2016 edition of the #Digital4EU Stakeholder Forum concentrated on four areas central to the creation of a European Digital Single Market: how to deliver an effective Digital Single Market; how to foster the digital economy; how to effectively deal with startups and new disruptive industries; and whether to regulate online platforms. Through keynote speeches and panel discussions, policy makers, academics and other stakeholders discussed vital issues for the development of the Digital Single Market.
All participants agreed that, while Europe is a leader in the offline world, it is rapidly falling behind in the digital sphere. To foster Europe’s digital economy and, particularly cross-border e-commerce, participants urged the EU and national governments to break down the existing borders to cross-border online trading, invest in early “e-skills” education and built trust in data handling and data protection.