‘EU President Van Rompuy opens Ecommerce Europe’s new offices in Brussels’


Blog Wijnand Jongen, Vice-President, Chair member of the Executive Committee Ecommerce Europe and director of Thuiswinkel.org, The Netherlands.

It was such a special day! I was fortunate enough to welcome President Herman van Rompuy of the European Council at Ecommerce Europe’s new offices in Brussels. Van Rompuy addressed about 100 people who attended the openings reception for our rapidly growing European lobby association. Ecommerce Europe represents the interests of companies that sell products and/or services to consumers in Europe; Thuiswinkel.org is one of its founding members. As is only to be expected of presidents, Van Rompuy was a little late. This was because of an unexpected Council Meeting about the Ukraine, which resulted in Van Rompuy commenting that we should put the blame on Putin.

In my role as Chair of the Executive Committee of Ecommerce Europe, I had the honour of welcoming and speaking to president Van Rompuy – and later in the evening, also Robert Madelin, highest civil servant under Neelie Kroes and responsible for the Digital Agenda. Obviously, this was after our president, François Momboisse, in his speech for Van Rompuy, had asked the EU to quickly arrive at a one-stop-shop for e-commerce policy. This would help to combat the fragmentation of everything to do with e-commerce and realise an integrated vision. In return, Momboisse promised that Ecommerce Europe provide a one-stop-shop for e-commerce companies: after all it is particularly the (web)shops that sell products and/or services that want a one-stop-shop in the field of doing cross-border business, facts and statistics and best practises. To this end, Ecommerce Europe – also with an view to the Global E-commerce Summit that will be held in Barcelona on 16, 17, 18 June­ – will come up with an integrated approach, as recorded in positioning papers in the field of consumer trust, privacy, e-ID, online payments and e-logistics.

Momboisse: “Last year, the e-commerce industry in Europe had a total turnover of €358 billion and it was one of the few industries that grew with double digits. It has huge potential for further growth and creating jobs in Europe. However, going cross-border is still a big challenge for web shops in Europe today. With the one-stop-shop Ecommerce Europe is asking the European Commission for better policy coordination for online sales issues. Today, a patchwork of policies is spread over various departments of the Commission: They all deal with different aspects of our business. A one-stop-shop would be a viable solution for merchants and policy-makers. With today’s proposal, Ecommerce Europe, in order to get rid of fragmentation and separation, proposes creating a one-stop-shop for e-commerce by having an integrated and coherent approach covering consumer trust, security, privacy, online payments, e-logistics and sustainability. In the next few months, Ecommerce Europe will outline its suggestions to facilitate the establishment of a one-stop-shop on these five key elements for the industry.”

In his speech, Van Rompuy was clear about where the European Union currently stands with regard to e-commerce. Van Rompuy: “Ladies and Gentlemen, the truth is, in fact, that we’ve let our worldwide lead slip. And Europe needs to recapture this lead. If we look at the past five years, the annual sales of typical American and Asian ICT companies increased by almost 50%. Meanwhile, for European companies, they stagnated or sometimes even went down.” In fact, he was giving European policy-makers a form of wake-up call: “[S]till today – and this is possibly the single market’s biggest paradox – the place where we seem to struggle most in bringing down market borders is the digital economy. Ladies and Gentlemen, I am confident Europe can recapture its digital lead. That we can – and shall – fully connect the continent. And I wish Ecommerce Europe much success in promoting a more connected and more digital Europe.”

Later in the evening I had the honour of speaking to Robert Madelin, the Director-General of DG CONNECT, and I asked him for a response to our desire for a one-stop-shop for e-commerce policy and our offer to provide a one-stop-shop for e-commerce companies. Naturally, he was unable – that’s usually the way it goes – to make any promises on behalf of the EU. He did, however, say that he placed great value on our offer and appointments have been made to follow this up. It was good to hear that he is of the opinion that the next EU president should be a Digital President. Madelin: “It is clear that the e-commerce market is a major opportunity for years to come. The next President of the European Commission must be a digital President. Digital needs to be his or her priority and that of every other member of the College.”

By then, EU President Herman van Rompuy had already left the premises, on his way to a subsequent meeting.

Wijnand Jongen
Vice-President, Chair member of the Executive Committee and director of Thuiswinkel.org, The Netherlands.