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EU BYTES Apart from that, most people I speak to are


bracing for the post-COVID crisis, even though a good chunk of them also believe that we have not even reached a sure to happen second wave. The last time I believe someone told me: “We are in the second phase of the first wave.” My apologies, another unintended attempt to set a positive mood. Furthermore, from an internal EU perspective,


there has been much criticism coming from the science community, the public, politicians, etc. that economic interests have taken over attention from science interests. It certainly isn’t an easy balance to strike, and not every country has overcome the COVID crisis the way Germany has through its highly efficient policies. Angela Merkel gained popularity especially as she was able to streamline the approach in tackling the crisis across the sixteen German Länder.


2. “Keep markets open and create a level playing field” – In a nutshell, it is mainly about creating favourable and fair access for European products in markets abroad. The big discussion will focus on China, a heavily important market for German goods. And all this while most probably seeking to protect the EU and its strategic assets from Chinese control. This should be interesting. Indeed, the Presidency programme specifically highlights as its ambition to “maintain open markets, a rules-based EU trade and investment policy, and competitive conditions that are comparable and enforceable”. To seek multilateral fora to engage internal interests is a typical approach for Germany.


3. “Strengthen the digital sovereignty of the EU” – The Presidency programme already in its introduction highlights the dominance of the U.S. and China in many areas of digitalisation. So, what does Germany want to do? A “secure and trustworthy sovereign European data infrastructure”. Within this context 5G is only mentioned in the following manner: “We also wish to continue and coordinate the European activities and measures in the field of 5G security.” That for me is a very cautious statement within the relevant global debate.


Other aspects also include the Internet of Things which if you are not familiar, means connecting your equipment with the internet – i.e. your fridge, heating system, sports equipment and so on. The main mantra and of no surprise: “binding minimum level of IT security.”


And then there is AI and the availability of sufficient data to this end…whilst of course keeping data protection in mind. I still believe a big chunk of businesses are not really aware or understand how to implement the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.


4. “Shape the structural change and seize the opportunities of the European Green Deal” – The European Commission’s ambition when they brought out the Green Deal was not only to combat climate change but to reinvigorate EU business with green technology. The German Presidency shares the goal of making the EU the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. Well at least they are on time with the phase out of coal power plants in Germany by 2038; something agreed just recently. Many were hoping for 2030, but not the easiest feat when you are phasing out nuclear energy at the same time.


Brexit


Do I even need to tell you? The UK does not want to extend the transition period which is ending at the end of this year. And, the EU has done what it has constantly done at varying levels of elegance: Warning about the consequences. Most recently slightly starker whereby a Commission Communication gave a list of the complications to be expected under any scenario. Let me just give you a taste of the tone: “There is no room for complacency or postponing readiness and adaptation measures in anticipation that an agreement would ensure continuity, because a large number of changes will be inevitable.” And then in a nutshell what will happen: “An end to the free movement of persons, goods and services.” Things are obviously far from clear in the negotiations. Page 4 of the Communication: “Negotiations so far have shown little progress”. This is all still heart-breaking. And, I hope if your business is going to be affected, you are prepared for it.


Greetings from Brussels and #StaySafeStayTuned


JULY 2020 31


MuKe/Adobe Stock


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