The entrepreneurial perspective is being neglected in the EU digitalisation process

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The digital single market is a hot topic in the EU right now. Sweden has plenty of confidence when it comes to digitalisation, which does by its nature transcends all borders. The government’s overall goal is for Sweden to be best in the world at using the opportunities offered by digitalisation. But unfortunately the entrepreneurial perspective usually comes second when the European countries attempts to create a digital inner market.

Sophia Bengtsson, Svenskt Näringsliv

Sophia Bengtsson, Svenskt Näringsliv-Confederation of Swedish Enterprise

On June 14th, the Lithuanian representation to the EU held a panel discussion on the issue, which was opened by the Lithuanian deputy minister of finance Elijus Čivilis. Sophia Bengtsson from the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise took part in the discussions.

When the European Commission launched the digital single market (DSM), Swedish enterprises was positive and hoped that it would lead to Swedish companies and consumers would get access to a bigger market, and therefore a bigger supply of products and services. Finally other member countries would catch up to our progress, which has long been at the forefront.

Three years later we can ascertain that focus has been on regulation, and that the enterprises needs and wishes comes much further down on the list. Of course certain regulation is needed, but the risk is that the EU now loses its chance to be at the global forefront. Other nations, such as USA and China, will get a head exactly because they prioritise the entrepreneurial perspective.

Sophia Bengtsson raised these points in the discussion and underlined the need for a new way forward.  

- First off, every initiative to new regulation must be characterised by five principles: a neutrality regarding both technology and business model, consideration of the competitive aspect, be preceded by proof that the market has been unable to handle that which is suggested to be regulated, that the regulation contribute to an innovative, digital climate and that there will still be an openness towards global standards. 

Data flows are important to companies working on the global market. Misconstrued regulation can cause great damage, and without access to data European countries become less adept at developing new products, anticipate what consumers demand and creating new business models. Hopefully this realisation has been made, and the proposal to allow data to flow freely between EU countries is a step in the right direction.

The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise and Sophia Bengtsson was invited to the discussion in part because of Sweden being viewed as a frontrunner in digitalisation. The danger is that we as a country feel so sure that we will retain our leading edge that we relax and become overrun. It is also worth pointing out that we, who have pushed the digital agenda within the EU, will now loose our closest friends in the fore front of pushing an entrepreneurial digitalisation policy: the United Kingdom.

For the digital inner market to succeed all countries must be in agreement of its importance. Today that is not the case. Therefore the arguments must be clearer.

- DSM is about more than taking away the national level and replacing it with European regulation. Harmonisation is good, but not enough. The European regulation have to be GOOD regulation. We want to strive for a liberalisation and make sure legislators understands what needs to be done. Enterprises are the ones which will be most affected. Regulation must be designed to make it easy to understand and easy to follow. Simplification and liberalisation must therefore be the leading principles to take the digital inner market forward.

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