Invest, Innovate and Compete (and growth will come organically)
Times are challenging in Europe. And for some it is tempting to use a wide brush to paint a dark picture for the whole continent. While there are difficulties for some players in the ICT arena, it is too early to draw comparisons to a Lehman Brothers-style collapse for the sector. It’s no coincidence that companies peddling negative messages are the ones with negative or flat growth. But it’s not just a “can’t do” attitude that is holding some in the sector back. The debate kick started by Vice President Neelie Kroes’ “Connected Continent”, pro- posed EU telecoms legislation, represents an opportunity to get Europe back on track.
28 Elephants, 28 Rooms
Judging from the importance that governments across the globe give broadband policy, Commissioner Kroes is right to be pushing the broadband envelope. She also makes an important link between investment and performance. But to invest, you need a good investment environment where risk levels are not aggravated by significant variations in the market that Europe is still trying to turn into a single one. One cannot ignore the differences in Europe among member states – it remains the
proverbial elephant in the room for both the business and political community. And it’s a big enough elephant that it got a mention in European Commission President Barroso’s State of the Union address. He asked a poignant question, “Isn’t it a paradox that we have an internal market for goods but when it comes to digital market we have 28 national markets?”
The F Word
The European Parliament who will be combing through Neelie Kroes’ proposals along with the European Council which brings together relevant ministers from Europe’s 28 members (which the Commissioner recently referred to as “28 ring-fenced telco markets”). Breaking up Kroes’ proposed package into pieces – an – other kind of equally unwanted fragmentation – brings with it significant risks in urgent times, as the Commissioner warned the European Parliament (its first reading is expected to take place in March 2014).