October 6, 2011
This morning’s 2011 Innovation Summit held by the Lisbon Council was the most timely event I have ever attended in Brussels bar none.
A question that has been puzzling me of late, but that I had not really managed to articulate well or answer was a simple one, and it was addressed in some depth today…
In a world where governments and big companies are making cutbacks and redundancies everywhere, where exactly are new jobs going to come from? Where will the growth we are all looking for in the daily news be created?
This might be a contrary opinion, but it seems to me that while some countries – like Germany – are much more productive and efficient than others – like Greece – there will really be no way for the less efficient countries to ever dig their way out of the debt mess they are in in the euro. Won’t they always be falling behind other countries?
If that is the case, and it seems to me that it is, then a much greater focus on a total overhaul of the European economy seems like something well worth spending some time on.
There were three keynotes today, all of real value. The first by Andrew Wykoff from the OECD is going to take me some time to digest and I’ll post separately in a few days when I think I understand it properly.
The second was from Commissioner Reding in which she outlined her proposals for an Optional Common Sales Law. This would potentially produce a new more flexible layer in EU contract law which is designed to enable much easier cross-border transactions – especially online.
It would seem that this ought to be a central pillar in any realisation of the Digital Single Market. The Commissioner suggested that since most small and medium sized online firms struggle with the burden of potentially 27 different sets of contract legislation, they choose the easiest option and target just one or two jurisdictions.
The estimated loss of this refusal to play in other markets is a whopping €26 billion annually.
I can vouch from personal experience that this approach of abdication from expanding into other markets, as Commissioner Reding put it, is very real.
She also suggested that this is a legal innovation. It is the first time in the internal market where the proposed legislation does not force the removal of other laws. It will all be by choice.
So what might this mean for us, real people and consumers, not just policy wonks?
Listen to this…
Commissioner Reding’s idea would make possible a one page terms and conditions document on products. This means that the current situation where we purchase software (for example) and then have to waive every right known to man by agreeing to 26 pages of legal bumpf (in very small print) that none of us understands, but we have to agree to if we wish to use the product we have paid for, could come to an end.
That would be a huge victory for consumer rights in Europe. It might also help to stimulate many more companies into offering goods and services in many more European countries.
The Commissioner was followed by an excellent presentation by Anthony Williams and Ann Mettler about the role of small high-tech firms, being named “Micro-Multinationals” and how they might just be able to help grow Europe out of economic woes. I shall return to this is a post in the coming days. It is a topic about which I am a real expert and deserves significant thought from the reader.