Yesterday, June 12, we had the opportunity to visit Fleishman Hillard, a international public relations and consulting firm. We had three speakers who told us a little bit about what Fleishman Hillard is, but the main focus of our discussion was the current state of technology and environmental policy in the EU. However, what really stood out to me and what I would like to write about were two relatively undiscussed problems the EU has.
To start, the first speaker brought up an excellent point that after four weeks of intensive study of the EU I had not realized: policies and decision making in the EU is very non-political. In the US, decisions are made with the voters in mind and and policies come about based on what politicians think voters will respond positively to. SInce the EU’s only popularly elected institution is the Parliament, which, despite consistently growing authority with each EU treaty, still remains the weakest of the three main EU decision making bodies. The EU governance is weakly linked the citizens of the EU. This has led to a “Democratic Deficit” in the EU, which may be an underlying cause of the Euroskeptic movement. Maybe that’s the future to the EU surviving: reform in the popular connections of the EU institutions. Anyways, that is something that I believe few people understand about many of the problems of the EU, and Fleishman Hillard, a firm dedicated to EU public relations, seemed very interested in helping solve that problem.
The other problems was found in the technology sector of the EU. I did not realize that Europe was so lacking in large cyberspace companies. The only two large European companies that I had heard of are Skype and WhatsApp, and both of those have been bought out by American companies in the past few years. The Fleishman Hillard speaker attributed this to a different European business culture. The US has become very open and kind to failure. Second chances are common and mess ups are seen as learning experiences in the technology field. Because of this, Americans risk and dare, and some achieve and some fail. In Europe, failure carries a greater stigma. According to a European Commission survey, nearly half of Europeans agree that “one should not start a business if there is a risk it might fail.” Therefore, a culture of venture capitalism, which has fueled places like silicon valley for years, has less of a presence in Europe, leading to low innovation and a weaker presence in the forefront of cyberspace innovations. The competitiveness in the EU in these fields is weak as well. The speaker mentioned that many countries have rather monopolistic technology companies that fight increased competitiveness becasue it is a threat to their dominance. In order for growth and development in the cyberspace technology, the EU must try its best to help small businesses compete with the dominant companies and to encourage investors to take risks and to dare.