Europe’s digital transformation cannot happen without an open market
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Europe’s digital transformation cannot happen without an open market

Monday, 15 February 2021
This is an opinion article by an external contributor. The views belong to the writer.
Credit: Belga

5G. Just a number and a letter. But, the sum of its parts is of far greater importance.

Already with 4G, during this challenging last year, we have been able to keep in touch, work and learn from home, get help and assistance in remote areas, and have essential items delivered to us in our homes.

The 5th generation of telecommunications systems will transform how we live and work even further. It will allow new economic opportunities, new skills, new jobs, and dare I say it, a new economic model of increased democracy and inclusivity – IF access to 5G networks is affordable for all.

The European Commission, for its part, recognizes this. It has made digital transformation a cornerstone of its economic policy. It is the connective tissue of many, if not all, of its other wide-reaching policies, from the development of European industry 4.0 to farm to fork. From the beating Cancer Plan to the European way of life, 5G can help in ways we may not yet even realize.

As 5G deploys around the world already and begins to deploy around the continent, all is not as it seems. Some have raised unwarranted concerns, and as a result, the playing field is not open to all participants.

Let’s be clear; free and open competition should be allowed entirely. But some EU member states, contrary to the intentions of the 5G toolbox, and EU competition laws, have closed their 5G markets to providers from outside the Union, based on “security concerns.”

This is not only worrying but goes against basic EU principles. As a result, several European Parliament Members have highlighted their concerns about this issue in a cross-party letter, addressed to the European Commission’s Executive Vice Presidents Margrethe Vestager and Valdis Dombrovskis and the Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton (full letter here).

The Commission talks about protecting the European way of life. Indeed, the European way of life is based on transparency and open markets, public trust in the institutions to safeguard competition rules throughout the Union, and fairness. These basic principles should apply in this case too. Free and open competition should be fully allowed. Tech neutrality should be the basis for all players in this sector. Laws should not be constructed to exclude named, specific companies with no foundation. Urgent 5G deployment – a must for Europe – should not come at the essential principles’ cost and thus against our European values’ core.

If we do not set an example in this regard, then we have already lost those values we profess to hold so dear.