Business and politics is a two-way street for Danish MEP Morten Helveg Petersen of the ALDE Group in the European Parliament. UNITEE interviewed the current Vice-Chair of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy on his views on the Digital Single Market, and innovative and sustainable entrepreneurship in Europe.
What was your motivation to go into European politics?
I used to be on the board of IB Europe, the Internet advertising bureau organisation on the European level, as the Director of its Danish chapter. I was also in the Danish Parliament prior to that.
What struck me while working for the private sector was that the work being done in the European Parliament, at least in the internet and media world, is so important in the everyday lives of individuals and businesses, in terms of regulation, data protection, and other media-related issues… That was an eye opener for me and it increased my appetite for going into European politics.
What is the link between European politics and business? Does your entrepreneurial spirit contribute to, or influence your work in the European Parliament?
My experience from the Internet and media business made me realise the regulations and directives being made by the EU directly influence the everyday lives of consumers and businesses alike. I experienced how much politics actually means to business and how trying to build bridges between these two worlds is extremely important, not only within the internet and media sector, but also generally speaking.
I am trying to still listen to businesses and what is going on in various business communities because the work that we do in the Parliament should also take into account the challenges faced by entrepreneurs and the labour market.
Europe is in the middle of a financial crisis. We need to create jobs. We need to become more competitive. Therefore, we have to make better legislation for businesses to thrive.
With all the current buzz about the Digital Agenda for Europe, what are the benefits of a Digital Single Market for European businesses? What are the barriers to establishing such a market?
Europe lacks the big household names. When we talk about the Digital Agenda, we always talk about the Googles and the Facebooks of the world, but we have a hard time naming European companies. This demonstrates that we are not where we ought to be in having this Single Market.
The widely different practices in various countries in tackling various issues in public procurement, e-invoicing, copyright, e-commerce, and safety regulations across borders, etc. are just some of the many barriers that need to be broken down in order to realise all the potentials that are out there.
If we achieve having a true Single Market, we will have start-ups being able to compete on a truly European level, achieve synergies and economics-of-scale, thereby fostering growth and creating more jobs for Europe’s citizens.
There is a huge potential but we are not realising this yet. This is going to be a lot of work and this is clearly one of the agendas where more cooperation is needed despite growing Eurosceptic populations in many countries.
Competitiveness, high energy prices, and growing energy dependency are highly topical issues concerning many businesses in the EU today. How does the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy plan to tackle these issues?
Clearly, one of the main concerns right now is energy security, that is, people having access to energy.
Many countries are too dependent on imports of energy from Russia. This is why improving competitiveness and securing businesses with reasonably-priced energy sources and raw materials are our main priorities.
We also have a huge agenda on the research and innovation aspect and on completing the Horizon 2020 research programmes, hopefully increasing competitiveness for entrepreneurs, universities, research institutions, etc. In particular, here are lot of different initiatives going on and a lot of policy that has to be done overall on how to increase competitiveness and stimulate entrepreneurship of young people. Otherwise, we will fall behind other continents.
Would fracking be a solution?
I would not exclude fracking but I am very pre-occupied in which way the EU approach fracking. There is a clear lack of a common regulatory approach. What I would like to see is a more aligned, common and European approach to the environmental criteria and standards that we would have to live up to in order to frack on a large scale, when the need arises.
What role do entrepreneurs play in boosting innovation and long-term growth in Europe? How does the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy plan on supporting innovation among entrepreneurs?
There is a business and entrepreneurial side to the green transition of the economy. In some countries, like in my country Denmark, the green technology sector is becoming a really big and important sector, creating many jobs and opportunities.
Aside from this, we at the European Parliament are working on reducing all the administrative barriers across borders so that young European entrepreneurs could succeed in other markets aside from their own. We have to maintain the free movement of labour, which was not popular during the election campaigns.
Maintaining free movement of capital and labour liberates the potential there is within green energy, the digital agenda and in creating a truly single, internal market. My worry is that we take this as a given instead of doing something more.