Jean-Claude Juncker, the candidate to become next President of the European Commission on behalf of the European People’s Party (EPP) stated that his presidency would be dedicated to the digital transformation in an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal on the 5th of May.
Juncker started off by stating that he has old fashioned habits, such as reading hard copy papers and using a nine year old cell phone. Nevertheless “it would be foolish not to embrace new technologies” he wrote. New technologies are a new means for democracy, he argued, citing the Arab Spring and recent developments in Turkey as examples.
Next to civil society, the digital transformation is also good for the economy as the digital sector will be a new source for jobs. “The Internet and digital communications can transform our economies as profoundly as the steam engine did in the 18th century or electricity did in the 19th century. […] Finland and Estonia have become strong European economies by relying on digital technologies. Europe’s path to growth is paved with tablets and smartphones.”
He stated that “[a]s the next president of the European Commission, my top priorities would include forging a fully digital Europe – and a fully single digital market.” He estimated that by 2018, 4.8 million people could be working in the app economy, from 1.8 million today. He also predicted that the revenues will triple from €17.5 billion today, to 63 billion in 2018.
The main obstacle to reach these goals however, is the fragmentation of the digital market into 28 different separate markets, with different rules. He explained that this is the main difference between the United States and Europe. Europe has no main ICT innovators such as Microsoft, Apple and Google and this can only change of the digital markets of the Member States join hands.
“We can offer even greater opportunities in Europe, with 500 million potential customers for new digital products and services – if we tear down our regulatory walls and finally move from 28 national markets to a single digital market. For this to happen, we have to get serious: We have to end the regulatory silos in telecoms and copyright regulation, in data protection and in the application of European competition rules. This requires political determination. There will be resistance, as the current fragmented regime has created very convenient, well-protected comfort zones for some players. But Europe would miss a historic opportunity if we fail to tackle this challenge head-on.”