European leaders have unveiled a broad plan to reshape the digital economy on the continent.
The European Commission, the EU’s governing executive body, is proposing a range of new rules to standardize everything from e-commerce to telecom among its 28 member states.
Officials say the EU’s failure to create a single digital market is costing the continent about $470 billion. The proposed plan also calls for an investigation of the role of some big American online companies.
The plan is a radical rethink of how the EU does business digitally, says David Fidler, a visiting fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
“This is a big, bold, ambitious project,” says Fidler, “The barriers, and the fragmentation, and the problems and the challenges, are very serious and numerous.”
That’s hurting Europe’s small and medium-sized businesses, only seven percent of which are doing business outside their countries’ borders, according to the EU.
And among the big companies, European firms have ceded to American tech firms.
“It is a natural instinct to go, ‘Wow, need to look at this, we are concerned about this natural monopoly that has happened,'” says Heather Conley, director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
American firms have faced several anti-trust investigations and inquiries into their business practices. The EU’s new plan calls for that scrutiny to continue, while also eventually adding potential new regulations.
Those regulations are years away though, as the EU finalizes its plans, and convinces 28 members states to go along with the proposals.