Donald Tusk today takes office as President of the European Council representing the 28 EU Member States. This inauguration completes the EU’s five year leadership change.
Mr Tusk’s challenges won’t be easy. The EU is steering towards a lost decade, still struggling with weak economic recovery and high unemployment. Business as usual is not an option. The former leader of Poland, who championed the country’s economic miracle, can bring much needed urgency to EU reforms.
Being a talented leader, Mr Tusk can help the Council overcome its differences and paralysis by steering Europe from looming irrelevance towards leadership.
Some of Europe’s biggest challenges can be tackled by Mr Tusk and colleagues by embracing the Internet opportunity:
- Complete the EU Digital Single Market: A year ago, European leaders confirmed their “commitment to complete the Digital Single Market by 2015.” A digital single market could boost EU GDP with 4 percent and a transatlantic digital single market even further. Yet, it is often Member States that continuously block or delay EU-wide rules to reduce barriers. This happened again at last week’s Telecoms Council where ministers responsible for telecommunications and cyber unambitiously could only agree on the need for… more talks!
- Create the conditions for a successful European digital economy: European and international innovators will benefit from an enabling environment in Europe. We don’t need to demonise foreign businesses; we need to ensure that even more European firms become global leaders. The former activist in Poland’s Solidarity freedom movement and eager reformer knows this better than anyone. Already, more than half of the 29 countries in the world that are home to a billion dollar Internet firm are in Europe.
- Boost EU productivity: European productivity has since 1995 fallen behind other regions but adoption and use of connected information technology can reverse this trend.
- Encourage the digitalization of industry: Europe’s industry needs legislators’ help to embrace digital. Many are already disrupting and improving their business models rather than waiting and having someone else do it for them.
- Enable data flows: European companies increasingly depend on data transfers to export abroad. Calls to limit data transfer frameworks could have a negative impact on EU GDP of up to -1.3%.
The European Council today has a talented and dynamic new leader with a track record of pushing through difficult reforms and achieving competitiveness and growth. By encouraging EU Member States to embrace the Internet opportunity Mr Tusk can bring Europe to economic recovery and digital leadership.