EC criticized for failing to push online services in the EU

A lack coordination and political vision at the European Commission has hindered Europe's digital services says a trade group

A lack of political vision and weak internal coordination at the European Commission have prevented Europe from reaping the rewards of advances in online services, according to EdiMA, a trade group representing the biggest names in Internet technologies.

In a policy paper to be published Wednesday, the trade group proposes that the Commission sets up a task force comprising experts in various different departments at the Commission. The goal is to improve Europe's presence online, said James Waterworth, a director of E.U. affairs for Nokia, one of EdiMA's members.

"There's an absence of political vision in this regard, and the coordination between different parts of the Commission could be much better," said Waterworth.

Currently there are four of five different Commission departments dealing with e-commerce, for example, he said. These include the consumer affairs, the information society and competition directorates.

The task force EdiMA has in mind should be headed by a person "with a strong political will and the strength of mind to get things done. That's more important than this person having expert knowledge," Waterworth said, but he declined to name anyone EdiMA would like in the job.

The main message from the policy paper is that Europe is lagging when it comes to developing online services, and this is mainly because there isn't a properly functioning digital single market yet.

It's no surprise that all the big names in online services, such as Google, Yahoo, eBay and Microsoft, are American: "They all benefited from scale in their home markets to become what they are today," Waterworth said.

The European Union can't provide that because different rules, and different interpretations of E.U. rules at a national level, mean there is no consistent application of the law across the 27 E.U. member states, he said.

EDiMA's policy paper will be presented to the Commission Wednesday. The trade group will promote it among members of the European Parliament in September, when a new Parliament begins work.

The trade group has chosen to set out its vision for the next five years now to coincide with the change of Parliament and because the mandate of the Commission is about to expire in the fall.

It seems almost certain that Jose Manuel Barosso, the Commission president, will be given another four-year term. It is also likely that Viviane Reding, commissioner for the information society, will also continue in her job.

She has made no secret that she wants to continue in her current role. In an interview with IDG two months ago Reding said she would like to expand her responsibilities, possibly to include the thorny subject of online copyright protection, which is currently handled by the internal market directorate.

Waterworth declined to comment when asked if Reding would make a good choice to head the task force EdiMA has in mind.

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Paul Meller

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