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Barroso sees EU members falling behind in digital world

The head of the EU executive has accused the bloc's member states of doing too little to keep pace with their overseas rivals in digital services and telecommunications. Jose Barroso said EU investment was insufficient.

On Monday, the Germany newspaper Die Welt quoted European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso as saying the 28-member bloc was falling behind its international competitors when it came to innovations in the digital market and telecommunications.

In a letter to national governments, Barroso argued that the EU was missing out on much-needed growth and was not maximizing the opportunities offered by its single market in telecoms and online services.

He urged member states to invest more in research and innovation, arguing that those who had spent more money in those areas had been faring better in the current financial crisis.

Warning precedes WTO forum

His remarks precede a three-day World Trade Organization (WTO) forum that opens in Geneva on Tuesday titled "Expanding Trade Through Innovation and the Digital Economy."

"Europe is engaged in a global competition for knowledge, research and innovation," Barroso wrote in his letter to EU governments.

"We're clearly lagging behind in essential high-tech and fast-growing markets, with European startup companies growing more slowly and few of them joining the ranks of the world's largest firms," he added.

Barroso called on member states and the European Parliament to adopt Commission proposals on topics ranging from high-speed broadband costs, e-invoicing and electronic identification to more modern payment services and copyright systems.

Data protection issues

He also addressed data protection issues influencing consumers' trust in modern technologies.

"It's essential for European citizens' and businesses' confidence in the online economy that our new data protection rules are part of the overall package," he commented.

EU leaders meet in Brussels next month to look at ways of boosting sluggish growth.

hg/ipj (dpa, AFP)