A lively couple of days in Brussels last week – the highlight a Lisbon Council round-table with Andrus Ansip, Vice President of the European Commission.
Ansip was for nine years Prime Minister of Estonia, Europe’s child prodigy in terms of its digital thinking and a model to which Wales should pay more attention, as I argued in my Patrick Hannan Memorial Lecture on BBC Radio Wales a couple of years ago.
Now he is part of the ring of former Prime Ministers surrounding the European Commission President, and charged with delivering a mighty reform to sweep away digital roadblocks between Europe’s 28 member states. His aim is to ensure that businesses can trade more easily, that new competitors can get into markets more readily and that consumers will stop being geo-blocked, so that they pay for a streaming service in one country but find it’s useless in another or that an expensive smart-phone is less smart in Greece than it is in Germany. Ansip’s wife, Anu, is particularly annoyed that she can’t see her favourite soap opera on TV in Brussels.
It’s a top priority for Europe to get moving on these reforms. The alternative is to watch two continental-scale economies with no digital barriers, the USA and China, run further ahead of Europe. But Europe has grasped this kind of nettle before, on coal and steel and on agriculture, so there’s reason to hope. Reform, however, will be controversial, because it means taking on strong vested interests, including in the area of copyright.
If you want to follow what’s going on, the Vice President’s own blog is a pretty good place to start.