European industry more competitive if digital transition investment made now: Vestager

Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission. [EPA-EFE/STEPHANIE LECOCQ]

European Commission executive vice-president Margrethe Vestager said on Thursday (25 February) that European industry would be “even more competitive in a digital future” if it starts investing “now” in people, technology and the right regulatory frameworks.

Margrethe Vestager, responsible for a digitally ready Europe in the EU executive, reiterated the will expressed by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on the first day of the fourth edition of the Industry Days to ensure that “European industry will lead the green and digital transition”.

“Now that change is happening at a faster pace, we have to make sure that European industry is really equipped to lead this change,” Vestager said at the end of the third day of the main EU event on industry, which this year took place remotely.

There is a “clear consensus” within the European Commission on this issue: “We want a digital future that is fair, accountable and of course under our control”, she said.

To achieve this, the European Union needs to start investing in people “now”, in technology and in the right regulatory frameworks, she said, adding that this goal would only be achieved with the effort of all member states.

Investment in people “goes beyond the economic issue”, she said, as it is necessary to guarantee “a certain level of digital competence” to European citizens. Otherwise, “new challenges for social cohesion” may arise, she warned.

Vestager said “digitalisation can become a powerful platform for social convergence” by equipping “more disadvantaged regions and communities”.

In relation to investment in technology itself, she defended the need for public investment “when technology depends on public infrastructure”, giving electric cars as an example, which “will only make sense if they have access to a network of charging stations on European roads”, she pointed out.

The third investment, of a correct regulatory framework, is “the most important” for Vestager, as it allows “the economy to operate fairly”, giving the example of the EU’s competitiveness rules under the common market.

Shel recalled the European Commission’s proposal for regulatory change through the Digital Marketplace and Digital Services Acts, which set rules of conduct for large ‘gatekeeper’ platforms in order to “create a safer digital space in which users’ fundamental rights are protected”.

“If we make these three investments now, I am convinced that European industry will be even more competitive in a more digital future,” she adding that this is a double objective, as the digital transition promotes the green transition and therefore also allows the EU bloc to meet its environmental objectives.

Vestager was speaking at the end of the third day of the fourth edition of the EU Industry Days, the main event on industry organised every year by the European Commission. This year’s event took place virtually and featured a packed programme of workshops, talks, business presentations, podcasts and more from several EU countries.

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