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EC’s Oettinger: European project in ‘grave danger’

Gunther Oettinger

Gunther Oettinger

The European project is in “grave danger” following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, according to the European Commissioner for digital economy and society.

Speaking at an informal Competition Council meeting in Bratislava, Günther Oettinger said that the UK Brexit decision made it clear that distrust of the EU is “one of several serious problems”.

However, he said that the alternatives to European integration are “bleak and scary for all Europeans” and that ministers of national governments and members of the European Commission need to take responsibility.

“We should not fall into the temptation for cheap short-term political gain to denigrate the European project or ‘Brussels’ or ‘Eurocrats’. Every national minister must acknowledge that – as a Member of the Council – he or she is part of that ‘Brussels’,” said Oettinger.

“It is even more important than ever to provide a clear and concrete view on the tangible future benefits of European integration and to focus on the areas where we need to act to increase Europe’s competitiveness.

“Other regions of the world are much less self-referred, but move ahead. It is time to wake up and to speed up our efforts.”

Referring specifically to the EC’s digital single market plans, Oettinger said that this offers “an important and positive narrative of direct, tangible benefits for all citizens.”

He said that every industry and sector should be able to reap the benefits of digital transformation and that each member state has to “take ownership of this important project”.

“I challenge all of you who have not in their countries a national initiative on digitising industry to launch one. I promise you that I am ready to support you in this in every way possible,” said Oettinger.

“Digitising European Industry is a good demonstration of subsidiarity. As a matter of fact, the existing national initiatives have realised that they can achieve their objectives in full only, if they act at the European scale and in a EU perspective.

“My one plea for this evening is: Let us act in concert on this. A common market of 510 million people is the best basis and the right dimension to allow companies and new business models to flourish and to scale-up.”