Saturday, 30 July 2011

USA and EU falling behind in innovation and competitiveness

We have seen that the European trade associations for businesses offering ICT goods and services want pan-European regulation. The industry players have lined up behind the Digital Agenda, including the Digital Single Market, expecting the politicians to play their part for a competitive Europe.

The dual ambitions of the European Commission to focus on promoting sustainable public finances and contributing to growth-enhancing economic reforms according to the Europe 2020 strategy (EU2020) are, in my view, remarkably well in line with what European business leaders and policy shapers are calling for.

But the European Union needs much more: full scale support from politicians at all levels.


Again, Twitter acted as the news medium, alerting me to the ITIF benchmarking report about innovation and competitiveness. (Sadly, I am not able to give credit to the individual tweeter, since I forgot to note the tweet, which already seems to have disappeared.)

The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation ITIF, based in Washington DC (USA), published The Atlantic Century II: Benchmarking EU and U.S. Innovation and Competitiveness, which found both dark clouds over all and bright spots with regard to nine of the the United States of America (introduction):

… the 2011 report finds that America has made little or no progress since 1999. Of the 44 countries and regions surveyed, the United States still ranks fourth behind Singapore, Finland and Sweden. But this is down from the number one position in 2000. Of greater concern, however, is the fact that the U.S. continues to rank at the bottom – second only to Italy – on progress in improving its innovation capacity and competitiveness over the last decade. But the updated report contains encouraging news for some individual states. Measured against the foreign countries and regions, Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington, Delaware, Maryland, Colorado, and New Hampshire would all be ranked number one in innovation-based competitiveness if they were their own countries.

Great for Finland and Sweden, but only if we do not count the nine top US states, more innovative than any nation in the world.

If the USA ranked a (disappointing) fourth, what should we say about the EU, where the fifteen old member states (EU-15) remain stuck in eighteenth place, with the ten new member states (EU-10) still further behind, in position 27?

The rate of progress for the US and the EU can only be described as dismal. Both continue to lose ground in the the ”great game” of the 21st century, the global innovation race.

Besides the good marks for Finland and Sweden, the best news from Europe is that five Central European countries – Cyprus, Slovenia, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Latvia – are in the top ten regarding the speed of long term progress between 1999 and 2011, although the recent depression has sapped strength.

The study offers practical advice for the USA and for Europe. Both must push back innovation mercantilism and improve their policies on innovation, productivity and competitiveness.

Europe needs to fully embrace innovation, including the ”creative destruction” so alien to many of its protectionist politicians.

America is described as ”torpid”, sleepwalking to decline without decisive and proactive public action to shape and to act on an national innovation strategy.

This century is not going to be Atlantic, if the US and Europe remain in the slow lane.

You can study the full report:

Robert D. Atkinson and Scott M. Andes, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation: The Atlantic Century II: Benchmarking EU & U.S. Innovation and Competitiveness (July 2011, 42 pages)


We need the humility to learn and the courage to act, in both Europe and the United States.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. SFGate tells us that Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has unveiled An Economic Growth and Competitivenss Agenda for California, in Silicon Valley. The plan is available here.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Business leaders boost the European Dream

After our European ICT competitiveness roundup it seems natural to take a closer look at the hopes and expectations of European corporate leaders with regard to the future of the EU.

Some people doubt the usefulness of social media, but I beg to differ. This time I noticed an interesting report through @AchimMuellers on Twitter, a consultant who also blogs on Achim Müllers.

Müllers' tweet led me to the report by Booz & Co, the European Executive Council (EEC) and INSEAD: Revitalising the European Dream: A Corporate View.

In addition to demands for EU clout in world affairs and global free trade, the replies from 2,000 European business leaders and policy shapers are remarkably well in line with the current dual ambitions of the European Commission (and the Council) to focus on promoting sustainable public finances and contributing to growth-enhancing economic reforms according to the Europe 2020 strategy (EU2020).

However, many business leaders feel that there is a lack of dialogue and interaction with the Commission.

Despite differing outlooks among big corporations and SMEs, as well as between individual countries, the authors of the 19-page report are convinced that

... the revitalisation of the European dream is an imperative that corporate leaders support, not at the expense of other regions, but as a critical requirement and contributor to a healthy and sustainable global economy.

Form and function

The web version of the European Dream report shows the conflict between form and function. The graphical designers have been allowed to use pleasing pastel colours, such as light blue on white and white on blue, which make reading harder and less enjoyable than simpler solutions like black on white. Caveat emptor!

Ralf Grahn

P.S. With the US countdown to default ongoing, professor Robert Reich offers a trenchant view of an ailing America (in the Social Europe Journal).

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Nordic ICT competitiveness (INSEAD and WEF)

The tenth GITR from INSEAD and the World Economic Forum (WEF)was practically global, covering the ICT competitiveness of 138 countries or territories:

Soumitra Dutta, INSEAD, and Irene Mia, World Economic Forum (editors): The Global Information Technology Report 2010–2011 Transformations 2.0 (411 pages)

This is one of many wide competitiveness comparisons, where we see that the Nordic countries come out well. Here, three EU members were among the world elite. Sweden was seen as the most competitive economy, with Finland in third and Denmark in seventh place.

The EEA members Norway and Iceland were ranked ninth and sixteenth, respectively.

What can the European Union and the other EU member states learn in order to make the Europe 2020 strategy and its Digital Agenda success stories for European competitiveness?

Ralf Grahn

P.S. To remain globally competitive Europe must leverage its economies of scale and remove remaining barriers to the completion and growth of the single market, says GSMA Europe.

Monday, 25 July 2011

EU Digital Agenda Scoreboard 2011

After the latest Roundup of Digital Agenda for Europe entry I started to look at the Digital Agenda Scoreboard 2011 in Finnish (here and here).

The corrected version of the Digital Agenda communication:

A Digital Agenda for Europe; Brussels, 26.8.2010 COM(2010) 245 final/2 (41 pages)

Rapid portal down

For some reason the 31 May 2011 press release IP/11/663 (in 22 languages) and the accompanying memorandum MEMO/11/361 (in English only) with scoreboard information in a nutshell, as well as the Europa Rapid portal in general, have been inaccessible during the last two days, so interested readers are encouraged to try later.

EU Digital Agenda Scoreboard 2011

Luckily, the web portal of the Europe 2020 (EU2020) flagship initiative A Digital Agenda for Europe is in working order, and we can access the web pages dedicated to the EU Digital Agenda Scoreboard 2011.

There are links to the report, the progress of individual actions, country profiles, progress by pillar, graphs and open data.

We turn to the main report.

SEC(2011) 708

The Digital Agenda Scoreboard 2011 report seems to be available only in English, but since I was unable to find it on Eur-Lex, there was no bibliographic notice to check:

COMMISSION STAFF WORKING PAPER: Digital Agenda Scoreboard; Brussels, 31.5.2011 SEC(2011) 708 (18 pages)

Brownie points

The communication is a blueprint for seven pillars (policy areas) and 101 actions, but the first annual scoreboard records progress mainly with regard to the actions planned for May 2010 to May 2011.

Brownie points for helpful links to relevant web pages throughout the scoreboard report.

The scoreboard report also measures progress towards the key performance targets (from page 11).

More detailed information is available through the Digital Agenda Scoreboard 2011 web pages.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Towards the Single Market Act: The European Digital Media Association EDiMA, which represents the interests of the new media sector in European policy making, responded to the Commission consultation on the relaunch of the Single Market, underlining the Digital Single Market as one of the key priorities.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Roundup of Digital Agenda for Europe

The latest Digital Agenda for Europe roundup was published on Grahnlaw Suomi Finland 17 July 2011. Especially the 2009 seminal report from the Swedish government has experienced a renaissance among readers through the blog post: A Green Knowledge Society (Digital Agenda).

Since then I have written a few more entries about the Europe 2020 (EU 2020) flagship initiative called the Digital Agenda, including the Digital Single Market, so here is a collection of new posts on my four euroblogs.

Grahnblawg (in Swedish): Vision om det gröna kunskapssamhället (17 July 2011)

Eurooppaoikeus (in Finnish): EU kohti digitaalistrategiaa: neuvosto 2009 (18 July 2011)

Grahnblawg (in Swedish): Sverige och EU-slutsatser om kunskapssamhället (december 2009) (18 July 2011)

Grahnlaw Suomi Finland: Spain and ICT industry towards Digital Agenda for Europe (2010) (18 July 2011)

Grahnlaw: Granada Ministerial Declaration on the European Digital Agenda (19 July 2011)

Grahnlaw Suomi Finland (in Finnish): Digitaalistrategia: Euroopan parlamentin (19 July 2011)

Grahnlaw Suomi Finland (in Swedish): Europaparlamentet om en ny digital agenda: (19 July 2011)

Grahnlaw Suomi Finland (in Swedish): En digital agenda för Europa: utgångspunkter (20 July 2011)

Grahnlaw: Digital Single Market in Digital Agenda for Europe (21 July 2011)

Grahnlaw Suomi Finland: Digital Single Market continued (Digital Agenda for Europe) (22 July 2011)

Grahnlaw: Interoperability and standards in Digital Agenda for Europe (23 July 2011)

Eurooppaoikeus (in Finnish): Euroopan digitaalistrategian tulostaulu 2011 (24 July 2011)


Which aspects of the Digital Agenda do you find most crucial for the living standards and quality of life of EU citizens? You can comment below or share your thoughts by email.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Erkki Ormala, the president of DigitalEurope, shared his thoughts about the Digital Agenda and the Digital Single Market on the news source New Europe.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Interoperability and standards in Digital Agenda for Europe

The introduction of the communication (in Swedish) was followed by overviews of the digital single market in the Digital Agenda for Europe and the planned Pillar I actions: Digital Single Market.


We move to a new action area in the communication:

A Digital Agenda for Europe; Brussels, 26.8.2010 COM(2010) 245 final/2 (41 pages)

According to the Commission, to reap the full benefits of ICT deployment interoperability between devices, applications, data repositories, services and networks must be further enhanced. Europe's standard-setting framework must catch up with fast-moving technology markets because standards are vital for interoperability.

Planned actions

The Digital Agenda portal lists a number of planned actions under Pillar II: Interoperability and Standards.

Action 21: Propose legislation on ICT interoperability
Action 22: Promote standard-setting rules
Action 23: Provide guidance on ICT standardisation and public procurement
Action 24: Adopt a European Interoperability Strategy and Framework
Action 25: Analyse the consequences of requesting significant market players to licence information
Action 26: Member States to implement European Interoperability Framework
Action 27: Member States to implement Malmö and Granada declarations

Standardisation review

You can read about the proposed actions in the communication, but we also see the cross-cutting nature of the Digital Agenda.

For an overview, our best course of action seems to be to stroll over to DG Enterprise and Industry:

June 2011 – More Standards for Europe and faster

Standardisation strategy

The communication on standardisation policy is available in 22 official EU languages; here in English:

A strategic vision for European standards: Moving forward to enhance and accelerate the sustainable growth of the European economy by 2020; Brussels, 1.6.2011 COM(2011) 311 final (20 pages)

Because of our interest in the Europe 2020 growth strategy, I quote the paragraph about the relationship between standards and various aspects of the EU2020 strategy (pages 3-4):

Standardisation will play an important part in supporting the Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, as set out in several flagship initiatives. Innovation Union underlines that a dynamic and responsive European standardisation system is needed to support innovation. The Industrial Policy flagship stresses the need for European standardisation to be highly responsive in a rapidly changing world, for it to support European competitiveness in the global market and for it to meet the needs of both industry and public authorities. The Digital Agenda for Europe highlights the importance of ICT standards in delivering interoperability between devices, applications, data repositories, services and networks. And the Flagship for a Resource Efficient Europe emphasizes the important role of standards in encouraging eco-innovation. Standardisation also play a role in policy measures such as the "Single Market Act", the Communication on Trade, Growth and World Affairs and the Disability Strategy 2010-2020. European standardisation also features in the review of the "Small Business Act" for Europe. The Communication on "a new response to a changing Neighbourhood" also refers to the need for partner countries to implement commitments on taking over EU standards in the framework of the negotiations with respect to Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements (DCFTA).
(The original document contains references to the relevant communications.)

Standardisation Regulation

As a legislative proposal, the communication on a Regulation for European standardisation is available in all 23 official EU languages (including Irish Gaelic); here in English:

Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on European Standardisation and amending Council Directives 89/686/EEC and 93/15/EEC and Directives 94/9/EC, 94/25/EC, 95/16/EC, 97/23/EC, 98/34/EC, 2004/22/EC, 2007/23/EC, 2009/105/EC and 2009/23/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council; Brussels, 1.6.2011 COM(2011) 315 final (51 pages)

You can follow the procedure on Oeil under number 2011/0150 (COD).

The proposal was accompanied by an impact assessment SEC(2011) 671 (English only) and its summary SEC(2011) 672 (in 22 languages).

Digital Agenda Assembly

The Digital Agenda Assembly 16 June 2011 dedicated a session to interoperability and standards.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Just ahead of the Commission's Digital Agenda for Europe, the trade association for the European information technology, consumer electronics and telecommunications sectors, DigitalEurope, published its Vision 2020: A transformational agenda for the digital age. - The Vision 2020 White Paper is available in English, French and German.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Digital Single Market in Digital Agenda for Europe

In the blog post 'Worth remembering: EU Digital Agenda launch' we looked at the press release and the two memos relating to the original communication A Digital Agenda for Europe; 19 May 2010 COM(2010) 245.

Earlier, including the 5 May 2010 resolution by the European Parliament, the perspective had been until 2015, but when the Digital Agenda was integrated into the Europe 2020 (EU2020)strategy framework, as one of the seven flagship initiatives, the timeline either changed or was silently toned down.

We noted some early reactions to the Digital Agenda, as well as the progress report on the single European communications market in 2009 COM(2010) 253 in Grahnlaw blog posts.

Some readers may still be interested in Europe's Digital Competitiveness Report 2010 (196 pages), which offers a systematic view of the challenges and the relative strengths of the EU member states at the time.

Digital Agenda replaced

The original communication was later replaced. The corrected version is available in the official languages of the European Union. The communication in English:

Annule et remplace le document COM(2010) 245 final du 19.5.2010
Concerne toutes les versions linguistiques

A Digital Agenda for Europe; Brussels, 26.8.2010 COM(2010) 245 final/2 (41 pages)

Even when anachronistic, it feels more natural to use the replacing version as our reference.


Yesterday, I looked at the framework and problems presented in the Introduction of the communication (in Swedish).

The Table of contents offers us an overview of the issues of the Digital Agenda:

1. Introduction
2. The action areas of the Digital Agenda
2.1. A vibrant digital single market
2.2. Interoperability and standards
2.3. Trust and security
2.4. Fast and ultra fast internet access
2.5. Research and innovation
2.6. Enhancing digital literacy, skills and inclusion
2.7. ICT-enabled benefits for EU society
2.8. International aspects of the Digital Agenda
3. Implementation and governance

Digital Single Market

The second chapter of the communication offered sections on the action areas of the Digital Agenda. First came the challenge of the Digital Single Market (section 2.1.), from page 7 to 14.

The communication noted that the Internet is borderless, but the European online markets highly fragmented. Consequently, the EU is falling behind in terms of offer to consumers and business models able to create jobs (page 7):

The single market therefore needs a fundamental update to bring it into the internet era.

The proposed actions at headline level, but with obstacles described as well as key actions and other actions outlined in the text:

Opening up access to content
Making online and cross border transactions straightforward
Building digital confidence
Reinforcing the single market for telecommunications services

Citizens, consumers and businesses need to press for pan-European rules and practices in order to turn the free movement of (digital) services into a reality, the Digital Single Market.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. The global trade association, the Business Software Alliance BSA, regretted that the communication on the Digital Agenda did not go further to protect the backbone of technology innovation in Europe with stronger measures on intellectual property (IP) rights.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Granada Ministerial Declaration on the European Digital Agenda

Yesterday, we returned to the Spanish presidency of the Council of the European Union, in the blog post Spain and ICT industry towards Digital Agenda for Europe (2010). The blog post recounted the key themes of the European level trade associations for the information and communication technology businesses:

Industry Partnership Contribution to the Spanish Presidency Digital Europe Strategy - Recommendations of the European Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Industry to the Spanish Presidency of the European Union

Granada Declaration

The Spanish presidency lent its prestige to the new digital strategy being prepared, by arranging an informal meeting of EU ministers in Granada. The visible outcome of the ministerial meeting was the Granada Declaration:

Spanish presidency of the Council of the European Union: Granada Ministerial Declaration on the European Digital Agenda (19 April 2010)

At this point, the communication from the Commission about the Europe 2020 strategy, 3.3.2010 COM(2010) 2020, had already been published.

After recalling the importance and potential of information and communications technologies, the four-page Granada Declaration set a number of guidelines in 29 paragraphs under the following headings:

Advanced use of the open internet, security and trust
Digital User Rights
Digital Single Market
Public Digital Services
Strengthening the Competitiveness of Europe's ICT sector
International dimension of the Digital Agenda
Measuring progress

The Spanish government (La Moncloa) hailed the informal meeting of EU telecommunications and information society ministers, held from 18 to 20 April 2010 in the Andalusian city of Granada, as the most important event for the Spanish presidency in terms of the information society.

The European Commission issued a memo: Digital Agenda: Kroes welcomes Ministerial support (19 April 2010 MEMO/10/137).

Kroes rated the Granada Declaration as "a milestone, a crucial building block for a truly European Digital Agenda".

She promised that the Ministerial Declaration will be taken into account by the Commission in its forthcoming Communication on a European Digital Agenda, one of the pillars of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth (see IP/10/225 about EU2020 communication).

Microsoft Europe, through John Vassallo, issued a statement on the Granada declaration (4 May 2010), where the company encouraged the Commission to seek consistent interoperability practices across industry.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. The Next Web TNW reports that Nokia’s “Sea Ray” Windows Phone prototype emerges in a video. Light at the end of the tunnel for Nokia and Microsoft cooperation in the mobile world?

Saturday, 16 July 2011

A Green Knowledge Society (Digital Agenda)

After the EU Digital Agenda public consultation 2009 we turn to some of the preparatory work done by the Swedish presidency of the Council of the European Union during the second semester of 2009.

The Visby Information Society Conference 9 to 10 November 2009 left us the Visby Declaration about the policy issues for a new ICT agenda for the EU.

After some introductory remarks, the Visby Declaration attempted to outline consensus views towards a European knowledge society, in 17 distinct paragraphs.

Some of the issues are discussed in the Grahnlaw blog post: Swedish presidency and EU Commission: preparing Digital Agenda (24 December 2009), although many of the links are now broken.

Green Knowledge Society

For the Visby Conference, the Swedish government had prepared an interesting policy report, luckily still accessible:

Swedish presidency of the Council of the European Union: A Green Knowledge Society – An ICT policy agenda to 2015 for Europe's future knowledge society (September 2009; 63 pages)

The report is in English, but the Executive Summary is available in French and Swedish as well.

In the foreword, the Swedish minister for communications Åsa Torstensson upped the ante:

Can we expect structural change and radical transformation to be smooth and painless? I think not. History abounds with examples of dramatic change that brought costs for a few but great gains for many more.
The report defined ten policy areas for an overall policy framework for information and communication technologies (ICTs), each area discussed in detail together with policy goals and policy actions up to 2015. See Executive Summary (EN FR SW):

1. The knowledge economy: driver of future wealth
2. The knowledge society: participation for all
3. Green ICT: support for an eco-efficient economy
4. Next generation infrastructure: balancing investment with competition
5. Soft infrastructure: investing in social capital
6. SMEs and ICT: supporting Europe’s small enterprises
7. A single information market: enabling cohesion and growth
8. Revolutionising eGovernment: rethinking delivery of public services
9. Online trust: a safe and secure digital world
10. Clear leadership: rethinking the EU’s policy making process

Key aspects

The report summed up three key aspects to the Green Knowledge Society:

 Economic – a knowledge economy is the way forward for a competitive European economy to generate sustainable growth and employment through innovation and to enable social and environmental goals to be pursued. Investment in ICT in support of Green Knowledge Society goals would additionally provide a much-needed short-term economic boost.

 Societal – a knowledge society is an inclusive society in which everyone should be able to participate, including those less able, so that this entry becomes part of basic human rights. It is the power of individuals acting in concert that drives innovation.

 Environmental – the Green Knowledge Society is a sustainable society so that growing use of ICT must support an eco-efficient economy. It has overtones in the economy, specifically with use of sustainability to drive new products, processes and industry sectors, highlighted by several interviewees as a ‘Green New Deal’ for Europe.
Hopefully, you find the issues covered enticing enough to study the Green Knowledge Society report on your own and to discuss the issues with other interested Europeans.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Visit the museum and art treasures of Europe at the multilingual Europeana web portal, which enables us to explore the digital resources of Europe's museums, libraries, archives and audio-visual collections – more than 15 million items from 1500 institutions.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Building the EU Digital Agenda – Competitiveness Report 2009

The Digital Competitiveness Report 2009 was one of the main building blocks of what became the EU2020 flagship initiative A Digital Agenda for Europe. We return to the communication and some relevant blog posts.

The Digital Competitiveness Report 2009 - COM(2009) 390, mentioned among the Digital Agenda main sources, is available in 22 official EU languages. The English version of the short communication from the Commission:

Europe’s Digital Competitiveness Report - Main achievements of the i2010 strategy 2005-2009; Brussels, 4.8.2009 COM(2009) 390 final

Grahnlaw blog posts

The entry 'European Union's information society and media policies presented' (23 December 2009) took stock of how the first Barroso Commission extolled its virtues regarding the i2010 strategy.

The Grahnlaw blog post 'Information society: EU's i2010 strategy assessed' (23 December 2009) offered a few remarks during the preparatory stage of the new European digital agenda, and it linked to the communication as well as the more detailed accompanying documents SEC(2009) 1060, SEC(2009) 1103 and SEC(2009) 1104.

'EU 2020 strategy and future digital agenda under work' (24 December 2009) focused on the public consultations.

'Swedish presidency and EU Commission: preparing Digital Agenda' (24 December 2009) recorded how main actors had approached the upcoming priority debate at the TTE Council.

One of the milestones passed during the Swedish presidency of the Council of the European Union, was reflected in the blog entry 'EU Telecommunications Council on post i2010 strategy: Towards a new digital agenda' (25 December 2009), including a reference to the detailed conclusions.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. In the Social Europe Journal, Ulrike Guerot of the ECFR writes about Germany's relationship with the European Union: Re-kindling Berlin's love for Brussels.
For more detailed discussion you can turn to the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) publication: What does Germany think about Europe?
I am reminded of my growing doubts in the May 2009 blog post: And Quiet Flows the Spree – Merkel's Germany in the EU.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

A Digital Agenda for Europe; Brussels, 26.8.2010 COM(2010) 245 final/2

In the blog post 'Worth remembering: EU Digital Agenda launch' we looked at the press release and the memos relating to the original communication A Digital Agenda for Europe; 19 May 2010 COM(2010) 245, regarding this Europe 2020 (EU2020) flagship initiative.

However, the original communication was later replaced. The corrected version is available in the official languages of the European Union. The communication in English:

Annule et remplace le document COM(2010) 245 final du 19.5.2010
Concerne toutes les versions linguistiques

A Digital Agenda for Europe; Brussels, 26.8.2010 COM(2010) 245 final/2 (41 pages)

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Digital technology development tests the rules applicable to (new) media. MediaLaws deals with law and policy of the media in a comparative perspective.

Monday, 11 July 2011

EU Digital Agenda challenges revisited

The first part of the Digital Agenda retrospective appeared here.

Industry views on the coming European Digital Agenda and an own-initiative report in the European Parliament preceded the publication of the communication from the Commission 19 May 2010: A Digital Agenda for Europe.

We looked at some first reactions to the Digital Agenda for Europe and the progress report on the single European electronic communications market 2009, before referring to Henrik Alexandersson's tragicomic real life account of the multiple notebooks and wireless dongles forced on him by fragmented telecoms markets and incompatible software, plus the horrendous costs of data roaming.

Healthy reminders for those who believe that the common market became a reality when the 1957 EEC Treaty entered into force.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. If the European Union seems overwhelmed by the mess of 17 eurozone members and 27 independent EU members in all, the US Republicans look determined to trigger a federal level default on their own, Euronews tells us.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

EU Digital Single Market in Europe 2020 strategy

Ensuring the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital is an ongoing work in Europe, since the launch of the common market by the 1957 EEC Treaty. Professor Mario Monti assessed the need for progress in his report to Commission president José Manuel Barroso:

Mario Monti: A new strategy for the single market – at the service of Europe's economy and society (9 May 2010)

Telecommunications and digital services have become essential drivers of economic growth. We looked at Monti's proposals in the blog post yesterday: Mario Monti on EU Digital Single Market.

Monti recommendations

Monti saw the need for an integrated European-wide market for electronic communications, a pan-European online retail market and a single market for online digital content.

Monti's key recommendations were (page 46):

Telecommunications services and infrastructures

⇒ Review of the sector to prepare proposals for creating a seamless regulatory space for electronic communications, including proposals to reinforce EU level regulatory oversight, to introduce pan-European licensing and EU level frequency allocation and administration.


⇒ Present proposals to end the fragmentation of EU consumer legislation and introduce in particular harmonised rules for delivery, warranty and dispute resolution.

⇒ Present proposals to simplify the business environment for cross-border retail transactions, including VAT rules, the cross border management of recycling rules and of copyright levies on blank media and equipment.

Online digital Content

⇒ proposals for an EU copyright law, including an EU framework for copyright clearance and management

⇒ proposals for a legal framework for EU-wide online broadcasting.
During his work, Monti consulted widely with EU institutions and member states. Mutually supportive actions do not come as a surprise.

Europe 2020 strategy

In March 2010 the European Commission had presented the Europe 2020 growth strategy in a communication:

EUROPE 2020 A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth; Brussels, 3.3.2010 COM(2010) 2020 final

In accordance with the three priorities – smart, sustainable and inclusive growth – and the five EU headline targets, the Commission promised seven flagship initiatives to promote progress. Among these we find (on page 6):

"A digital agenda for Europe" to speed up the roll-out of high-speed internet and reap the benefits of a digital single market for households and firms.

According to the Commission, smart growth means strengthening knowledge and innovation as drivers of our future growth. Among other things, the Commission saw the need for European action with regard to the digital society (page 11-12):

Digital society: The global demand for information and communication technologies is a market worth € 2 000 billion, but only one quarter of this comes from European firms. Europe is also falling behind on high-speed internet, which affects its ability to innovate, including in rural areas, as well as on the on-line dissemination of knowledge and on-line distribution of goods and services.

Digital Agenda for Europe

The EU2020 communication went on to present the essentials of the coming flagship initiative A Digital Agenda for Europe (page 14):

Flagship Initiative: "A Digital Agenda for Europe"

The aim is to deliver sustainable economic and social benefits from a Digital Single Market based on fast and ultra fast internet and interoperable applications, with broadband access for all by 2013, access for all to much higher internet speeds (30 Mbps or above) by 2020, and 50% or more of European households subscribing to internet connections above 100 Mbp

At EU level, the Commission will work:

– To provide a stable legal framework that stimulate[s] investments in an open and competitive high speed internet infrastructure and in related services;

– To develop an efficient spectrum policy;

– To facilitate the use of the EU's structural funds in pursuit of this agenda;

– To create a true single market for online content and services (i.e. borderless and safe EU web services and digital content markets, with high levels of trust and confidence, a balanced regulatory framework with clear rights regimes, the fostering of multi-territorial licences, adequate protection and remuneration for rights holders and active support for the digitisation of Europe's rich cultural heritage, and to shape the global governance of the internet;

– To reform the research and innovation funds and increase support in the field of ICTs so as to reinforce Europe's technology strength in key strategic fields and create the conditions for high growth SMEs to lead emerging markets and to stimulate ICT innovation across all business sectors;

– To promote internet access and take-up by all European citizens, especially through actions in support of digital literacy and accessibility

At national level, Member States will need:

– To draw up operational high speed internet strategies, and target public funding, including structural funds, on areas not fully served by private investments;

– To establish a legal framework for co-ordinating public works to reduce costs of network rollout;

– To promote deployment and usage of modern accessible online services (e.g. e-government, online health, smart home, digital skills, security).

Having scanned the Digital Agenda for Europe in embryonic form, we continue towards the birth of the Agenda and the early life of the digital single market.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. In the footsteps of Polish prime minister Donald Tusk, the Letters from Europe blog asks if Europe is the best place on Earth to be born. How do you comment on the conclusions and the reasons offered?

Friday, 8 July 2011

European Council: Economic policy timetable

The European Council was concerned about the regulatory burden of small businesses, especially micro enterprises employing less than ten persons. The summit called for a reduction of the burden on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Exemptions or lighter regimes for micro-enterprises are on the cards. The European Council welcomed the commitment of the Commission to assess the impact of future regulations on micro enterprises and to screen the acquis (body of EU law) to identify existing obligations from which micro enterprises could be excluded. See the blog post: European Council on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Economic growth

We return to the conclusions of the heads of state or government on economic policy, especially with regard to growth-enhancing reforms in the spirit of the Europe 2020 (EU2020) strategy and related projects:

European Council 23/24 June 2011: Conclusions (EUCO 23/11; 16 pages)

At Council level, matters had been prepared during the Hungarian presidency of the EU Council (of ministers), notably EPSCO, Ecofin and GAC.

In paragraph 4 (page 3), the heads of state or government outlined the next steps concerning economic growth and job creation:

4. ----- It agreed to return to these issues at its December 2011 meeting. The Commission is also invited to prepare a roadmap on the completion of the digital Single Market by 2015. The Commission is invited to report in October 2011 on these growth-enhancing areas with a view to progress being achieved by the time of the Spring 2012 European Council.

European semester: 12 months?

The Commission is going to monitor progress and possibly prepare additional proposals, leading to a report in October 2011, during the Polish presidency of the Council of the European Union.

The European Council will return to the economic growth issues in December 2011, after input from the relevant Council configurations.

The European Council had already (paragraph 1) given the European semester green light as ”an effective governance method to support EU and national policy-making in an integrated, transparent and timely manner”.

The planning cycle leads to an assessment of the Stability or Convergence Programme and the National Reform Programme (NRP) of each EU member state. We can expect the keynote document, the second Annual Growth Survey (AGS) from the European Commission in January 2012.

With or without an extra European Council in between, various Council configurations will deal with fiscal policies and economic reform issues (including the Euro Plus Pact commitments) during the second leg of the presidency trio of Poland, Denmark and Cyprus.

The spring European Council, usually late March, will provide more or less clear signals for the next round of public national programmes based on the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) and the EU2020 strategy in April, followed by Commission proposals for recommendations.

We can expect more Council conclusions in June, during the Danish presidency, before the concluding European Council, although the formal recommendations will probably be issued in July, when Cyprus has taken over the chair at the Council meetings.


If we take preparatory work and implementation at the EU level, as well as operational and budget decisions and preliminary programmes at the national level into account, we find that the European semester is more than a six-month exercise, keeping actors busy the whole year.

Thus, it becomes an ongoing exercise, which needs common vision and smooth cooperation between the countries of each presidency trio (cf. Wikipedia).

Ralf Grahn

P.S. ”Europe's leading cultural magazines at your fingertips”, declares Eurozine.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

European Council on growth and jobs

The preceding blog posts, including the latest one 'European Council documentation: Ecofin integrated guidelines', left us wondering about the vanishing paper trail (accountability, transparency) and real scope of the endorsement from the European Council ”without any watering down”, as well as from the national leaders ”to do everything necessary”, with regard to Stability or Convergence Programmes and National Reform Programmes (NRPs).

Still, the impetus, political directions and guidelines from the European Council represent the top level signals for the development of the European Union, so we have cause to continue looking at what the summit had to say about economic policy:

European Council 23/24 June 2011: Conclusions (EUCO 23/11; 16 pages)

Economic growth

In paragraph 4 (page 3), the heads of state or government turned to economic growth and job creation, against backdrop of still sluggish and uneven progress:

4. National efforts must be supported by action at European Union level, particularly with the aim of unlocking Europe's full potential for economic growth and job creation. In this context, work should accelerate to deliver the Europe 2020 flagship initiatives and the Single Market Act, focusing on the priorities identified by the Council on 30 May 2011. In particular, the regulatory burden on SMEs needs to be further reduced and where appropriate micro-enterprises should be exempted from certain future regulations or at least be subject to a lighter regime. In this context, the European Council welcomes the commitment of the Commission to assess the impact of future regulations on micro enterprises and to screen the acquis to identify existing obligations from which micro enterprises could be excluded. It agreed to return to these issues at its December 2011 meeting. The Commission is also invited to prepare a roadmap on the completion of the digital Single Market by 2015. The Commission is invited to report in October 2011 on these growth-enhancing areas with a view to progress being achieved by the time of the Spring 2012 European Council.
The paragraph contains several interesting signals, which we need to unlock through brief references omitted by the leaders.

Europe 2020 strategy

The success of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth (EU2020) depends mainly on reforms in the EU member states and on the willingness of the countries represented in the Council and the European Council to push for reforms at EU level.

Having pronounced on the public finances and growth-enhancing reforms in the member states, here the European Council addressed the Commission, which prepared and drives forward the seven flagship initiatives dedicated to EU level action: the Digital agenda for Europe, the Innovation Union, Youth on the Move, Resource efficient Europe, the industrial policy for the globalisation era, the agenda for new skills and jobs, and the European platform against poverty.

Single Market Act

Officially, the European Union has an internal market, but the benefits of a real single market beckon. The Single Market Act (SMA) is a step in this direction, entailing proposals promised in twelve areas, in order to support growth and job creation.

The Commission hopes to see the proposals adopte by the end of 2012.

A more detailed view of the intended actions is found in the communication from the Commission:

Single Market Act: Twelve levers to boost growth and strengthen confidence "Working together to create new growth”; Brussels, 13.4.2011 COM(2011) 206 final

Council priorities

In an off-hand manner, but still, the European Council offered a clue by mentioning the priorities identified by the Council on 30 May 2011. This must mean the Competitiveness Council, although it is less clear if the summit endorsement targeted only the Single Market Act, or everything connected to the EU2020 flagship initiatives as well:

3094th Council meeting Competitiveness (Internal Market, Industry, Research and Space); Brussels, 30 and 31 May 2011 (10547/11; 22 pages)

Here, let us focus on the Single Market Act, leaving the rest of the issues to readers interested enough to study the conclusions more fully.

We find the following text (with links in the original):

Single Market Act - Council conclusions

The Council held a debate and adopted conclusions on the implementation of the "Single Market Act" (SMA), which is a two-year plan (2011-2012) of 50 initiatives aimed at ensuring continuous optimisation of the internal market and contributing to the successful implementation of the Europe 2020 objectives on stimulating employment and economic growth (13977/1/10).

In the light of the outcome of a public consultation, the Commission submitted on 13 April 2011 a communication identifying the 12 levers that can best contribute to tapping the single market's potential for growth and employment. Moreover, the communication sets out a timetable for the adoption of each lever (9283/11).

The 12 levers for growth and social progress include actions in the areas of workers' mobility, financing for small and medium-sized enterprises, consumer protection, the digital single market, energy taxation and trans-European networks.

Among other things, the conclusions invite the Commission to put forward all these key actions before the end of 2011 and calls on all actors to commit themselves to adopting a first set of priority measures to give a new impetus to the single market by 2012.

The links lead to the corrected version of the original communication (13977/1/10), the April communication (9283/11), and the Council priorities (10993/11):

Council Conclusions on the Priorities for Relaunching the Single Market (31 May 2011, 10993/11; 10 pages)


This is about enough for the first blog post about the first two sentences of the fourth paragraph.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. The Guardian praises Sir Nicolas Bratza, the new president of the European Court of Human Rights, which ensures the observance of the European Convention of Human Rights (concluded within the Council of Europe).

Monday, 4 July 2011

European Council documentation: Europe 2020 employment (II)

Is there a difference between The Emperor's New Clothes, by Hans Christian Andersen (see Wikipedia), and the conclusions by the European Council?

Yesterday, we saw that the June summit endorsed the country-specific recommendations approved by the Council and invited all Member States to reflect them in their national decisions as regards their budgets and structural reforms and to address the shortcomings revealed by this exercise.

Majestic enough, but no direct link or reference to the substance, what the heads of state or government actually approved, or not.

EPSCO documents

Thanks to a Commission memorandum, we found the relevant Council meetings, first of which the EPSCO configuration:

3099th Council meeting Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs - Employment and Social Policy; Luxembourg, 17 June 2011 (Council document 11574/11)

Some sort of general approval emerged, tempered by ”certain reservations” and a postponement (to the Ecofin Council). The ESPCO Council bequeathed us with four documents (gracefully linked on page 11), which we must read if we want to know what the ministers approved.


Here is our catch:

Recommendations for Council recommendations on the National Reform Programmes 2011 to each Member State - General approach (employment aspects) (21 June 2011, 11851/11; 2 pages)

Outside the circle of Council officials and national experts, the text is almost indecipherable:

Further to the outcome of the Council (EPSCO) reflected in doc. 11819/11, delegations will find hereafter the overall results of the Council session on 17 June. The final texts from EPSCO are included in the documents prepared by the Legal-Linguist Experts. In particular, the solutions found to, or the reservations maintained on the open points listed in doc. 11657/11, Section II, are included in the following documents:
[list of document numbers]

The second document is:

Recommendations for Council recommendations on the National Reform Programmes 2011 to each Member State - General approach (employment aspects) (17 June 2011, 11819/11; 4 pages)

Perhaps more interesting than why and how individual member states demurred, the EPSCO Council informed us that it had reached a general approach – in yet another document:

On June 17, the EPSCO Council held a policy debate on the Country Specific Recommendations in the context of the implementation of the Europe 2020 Strategy. The Council reached a general approach on the employment aspects of the Council Recommendations as outlined in doc. 11657/11.
”Praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition” - could we be close to unearthing something intelligible for ordinary mortals?

Here we go. All language versions considered, Council search yields 44 references. Let us be content with the English versions:

Recommendations for Council Recommendations on the National Reform Programmes 2011 to each Member State - General approach (Article 148 TFEU) (15 June 2011, 11657/11; 9 pages)

Here, the Council actually offered an introduction to the matter, described the process, listed general (horisontal) open questions, reservations by individual member states and described the next steps. In other words, just a few steps below the European Council we actually find some useful information, although most of all further document references.

The second additional document:

Recommendations for Council Recommendations on the National Reform Programmes 2011 to each Member State - General approach (Article 148 TFEU) (16 June 2011, 11657/11 COR 1)

This corrected document concerns only Spain and Hungary.


We return to the EPSCO conclusions, where the Council endorsed the joint EMCO/SPC opinion on the examination of national reform programmes (10664/11) and the pilot version of the employment performance monitor (10666/1/11) [links in the original].

Piece of cake to use the links provided:

Examination of the National Reform Programmes 2011 - Joint opinion of the Employment Committee and of the Social Protection Committee = Endorsement (14 June 2011, 10664/11; 8 pages)

The committees have produced a readable, but extremely general text. Not much penetrates deeper than an assortment of newspaper headlines about current employment challenges in European countries, with the possible exception of the social protection and inclusion thoughts. These give us the feeling of the early stages of convergence towards some sort of consensus about common priorities at a European level.

Employment Performance Monitor

Employment Performance Monitor - Endorsement (15 June 2011, 10666/1/11 REV 1; 91 pages)

Few but some experts can be expected to peruse all the 91 pages of the document, but the the pilot version of the Employment Performance Monitor (EPM) could come in handy for those who want to see how their country measures up from a European perspective.

Although ”peer review” is a bit hazy, it has the potential to stimulate progress. Admittedly, more intensive communication and debate could usher in more frequent benefits at the national level, but where do we find these, when the European Council hides the beef beneath several layers of documents and the Brussels press corps keeps shrinking?


This was only the beginning. We still have to look at the Ecofin Council and the coordinating General Affairs Council, before we have unearthed what the European Council is ”wearing”, when it tells us of its endorsement.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. The Week in Bloggingportal offers its summary in a lighter vein: Tusk against the EUterus of death.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

European Council: ”Ambition and additional efforts”

In the blog post 'European Council Res Gestae (SGP & EU2020)' 29 June 2011, we looked at how the great men recorded their deeds with regard to the Stability or Convergence Programme and the National Reform Programme (NRP) of each EU member state.

In the entry 'European semester: ”More of the same” (European Council)' 1 July 2011, we noted that the summit gave its approval to the new planning instrument and prepared the road for future rounds (paragraph 1).

The blog post also tried to provide interested readers with relevant materials for further study.

We return to the relevant conclusions of the European Council, wrapping up the first new style planning cycle called the European semester (pages 2 to 4):

European Council 23/24 June 2011: Conclusions (EUCO 23/11; 16 pages)

For those who want a detailed, but clear overview of the issues of economic governance in the European Union, I recommend the memorandum mentioned in the previous blog post:

EU Economic governance: a major step forward; 31 May 2011, MEMO/11/364

Progress and challenges

The second paragraph of the European Council conclusions referred to the assessment by the Commission:

2. Based on the assessment provided by the Commission, the European Council discussed the policies and measures presented by Member States. These constitute a good starting point for sustaining Europe's recovery, for addressing fiscal challenges and for driving more ambitious reforms at national level. The European Council notes the clear determination of all Member States to do everything that is required to fully implement the Stability and Growth Pact. Member States have made good progress in defining action to attain the headline targets and goals of the Europe 2020 Strategy for jobs and sustainable growth. Some of the targets are on track but others (concerning employment, energy efficiency, R&D, poverty and tertiary education) require additional efforts. Priority should also be given to ensuring a sound macroeconomic environment, restoring fiscal sustainability, correcting macroeconomic imbalances and strengthening the financial sector.

Country-specific recommendations

The press release 'Delivering on growth and jobs: Commission presents 2011 country-specific recommendations' (7 June 2011 IP/11/685) was published in 22 languages, containing advice for the coming twelve to eighteen months.

There is one set of recommendations for the eurozone as a whole and 27 ones for the individual EU member states.

The memorandum published in the working languages of the Commission, English, French and German, provides more information, including on the papers published:

2011 Country-Specific Recommendations in the context of the European Semester: Frequently Asked Questions (7 June 2011 MEMO/11/382).

The memo explained why five countries received only one recommendation each:

Specific recommendations have not been addressed to the five Member States in receipt of financial assistance from the EU and IMF: euro area countries Greece, Ireland and Portugal and non-euro area countries Latvia and Romania. The assistance these countries are receiving is tied to the fulfilment of ambitious, tailored policy programmes focused on fiscal consolidation and structural economic reforms. The priority for these five Member States is to implement the programme as agreed, hence the single recommendation for each of them to do so.

For the same reason, Portugal and Greece have not submitted Stability Programmes this year.

The memo contains general observations about the Stability or Convergence Programmes and the National Reform Programmes (EU2020), as well as procedural information.

On the face of it, we can see that the European Council conclusions were more or less in line with the Commission findings at a general level, acknowledgeing the national programmes, but calling for more ambitious measures with regard to both public finances and Europe 2020 reforms.

Ecfin web page

On a single web page 'Stability and Convergence programmes (or updates) and National Reform Programmes 2011...', the European Commission's DG Economic and Financial Affairs (Ecfin) manages to provide links to Stability or Convergence Programmes, National Reform Programmes, Commission Staff Working Papers and Commission Recommendations. We are still waiting for the Council to adopt its formal recommendations, following the benign nod from the European Council.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Yesterday, Poland took over the presidency of the Council (of ministers) of the European Union.