European Union Enters New Phase of Government

The Lisbon Treaty, which strengthens the European Union’s central government, has been ratified by all 27 states and comes into force today.  It creates a new set of relationships within Europe.

Whilst it’s commonly acknowledged that the Lisbon Agenda of nearly 10 years ago — with its wide ranging sets of objectives for the IT industries and technology — was too ambitious, the new constitution proposed at the time was transformed into a treaty and now comes into effect. This is a revamped EU.

Following my comments on this blog in June, the new EU is now a reality. It matters.

The two newly created formal posts of President of the European Council and High Representative for Foreign Affairs (and also Vice President of the European Council) have been filled.

The debate surrounding these appointments brought out the expectations for the roles. It appears that the heads of nation-states do not wish a President in the US style but more a chairman of a consensus-making Council. It’s unlikely that the current heads of states will wish a President to whom they look up as their appointed leader. At a time of economic challenges, the heads of the key nation-states of France, Germany, and Italy are center-right with an inclination to smaller government (like Republicans in the US). All the current indicators in UK are for a similar orientation after the elections due by June 6th of next year.

The principle of subsidiarity also holds.

Other EU institutions include The European Commission and European Parliament.  All have a role to play in intellectual property and technology.

One of the articulated benefits of the new arrangements is more efficient internal workings for the EU. Progress of copyright and technology issues (as for all others) have hitherto been slowed by the cumbersome processes. This will now change.

By having an internal market of 500 million people, it makes the EU the 3rd largest internal market globally after China and India and ahead of the US. So economics is one of the powerful drivers of the EU. The intent is to create a platform for competing with the US and BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, China, India) on innovation and cost.

The EU already has significant technology R&D programs as well as competence and activities in Intellectual Property. The R&D programs are wide ranging and include many programs of interest to this blog. They also include programs on standards and new architectures.

The EU as well as its nation-states (i.e. peer group representation) also has representations in WTO, G8, G20 and at the UN, as well as others, within which Intellectual Property and Technology may play a part to a greater or lesser extent.

So what does this mean for businesses trading with and within the EU?

While naive businesses may ignore the power and role of nation states and head for the “center,” practical businesses will have to understand the nuances and dynamics between the role of the EU and the role of the nation states.

Whatever emerges on copyright and technology will not be a top-down approach, although the instruments are there to give effect to directives and EU laws, and the tendency of a bureaucracy will be in that direction. Instead, consensus will be required between nations before any EU approach will emerge. And in that there remains significant differences between nations on these issues.

Bill Jones is CEO of Global Village Ltd.

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