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Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda
A digital France in a digital Europe
"Le Numérique, au cœur de la Future Croissance Européenne", EuropaNova debate conference /Paris
25 March 2013
My names is Neelie Kroes and my fight at the moment is to shake up European Leaders. So that they pay more attention to the digital economy. I want every European digital. I want Europe to dream, to startup, to grow!
The Internet is an incredible tool. For our economy, it's a disruptive influence – but a positive one, creating 5 jobs for every 2 lost, and giving a huge boost to GDP. It's a platform for free speech and open innovation. And a place where you can access so much opportunity, as so many services go online; from online health and education to smart cities and connected cars.
No wonder the European Internet economy is so strong. Can you believe it? In France it is bigger than agriculture. At EU level, it's bigger than Belgium – but growing faster than China.
In fact a recent survey suggested that 3 in 5 French citizens would rather give up coffee for a year than their internet connection. This is a stimulant for our economy, and for our people.
So I welcome this roadmap for a French digital agenda. It shows that in France, you've realised just how significant the payoff could be. Just how significantly it could improve the lives of your citizens. And just how much you can do, nationally and regionally, to deliver that. Long ago, Paris started a revolution. My wish is that the Internet community starts a new revolution today in Europe. Make Europe the place to be.
My one advice would be, let's not forget the European dimension to all of this. There are so many areas where we can work better if we work together.
Like if we delivered a genuine digital single market. The Internet doesn't have borders; our rules need to match up to that. Consumers expect to be able to access the best that Europe has to offer, whether it's TV shows, cultural heritage or government services. And cross-border businesses expect to have cloud services that match, services that don't constrain them to national limits. From copyright to data protection, having different incompatible rules and standards in each and every member state gets in the way of those expectations, and seriously dents digital benefits; but European action can make everyone's lives easier.
Or imagine what we could do with a single market in telecommunications. At the moment, we are still a collection of 27 separate markets; with different uncoordinated rules all over the place - like for how we assign the radio spectrum your wireless device relies on. We have already taken action to cut outrageous roaming rates. But moving towards a single telecoms market would be a step further: helping businesses and consumers enjoy a choice beyond what happens to be on offer locally; helping telecoms companies think European and compete globally.
Building a single market requires not only common European rules and values, but also effective implementation of those rules and respect for those values. That is why I attach so much importance to the legal guarantees of the independence and effectiveness of national telecoms regulators such as ARCEP. And that is why I launched last week a public consultation on whether we should strengthen the European rules on the independence of national regulators responsible for audiovisual media services.
Or take research. Again there's much that can be done nationally here – and I'm glad France is investing in key sectors. But if you're trying to build the next electronics innovation, or looking at tomorrow's emerging technologies, then you're competing on a global stage: and you get significant benefits from working on a European scale. And education.
If we get this right, the digital revolution holds so much opportunity for all of us. Because the Internet is an open platform for new ideas, inventions and inspirations: holding the key to our economic success.
To make use of that, we need entrepreneurial talent. And I know there's so much of that here in Europe. I've seen it here in France; lots of it here in this audience today. I think we could make the most of that talent and potential: with fast broadband for all. With the right ICT skills so our unemployed can find work – and our economy can compete. And with the right mindset – so that people know that it's OK to go out there and try something different, or to take a risk and break out on your own as a web entrepreneur.
When people think of startups they think of Silicon Valley and the American dream. Well, I have a European dream. We have many success stories over here, and we can have many more. Let's make that dream a reality.
So once again – congratulations on this new digital roadmap. It gives me great comfort to know that, over here, decision makers have got the message on digital. And I'm delighted in particular we'll be hearing from Gilles about the great work he is doing as France's digital champion.
I hope that together, we can enjoy the benefits of a digital France in a digital Europe.
Let's start the digital revolution right here, right now.