The British Chamber of Commerce | EU & Belgium were delighted to have organised this exclusive patron lunch at the Amigo Hotel with Mr Kristian Hedberg, Deputy Head of Commissioner Bienkowska’s cabinet at the European Commission. The presentation and subsequent Q&A were highly informative, and provided an invaluable opportunity for some of our most-valued members to discuss EU Single Market policy.
There was a general concern around the table of the fact that the competitiveness of the European economy is falling behind those of the USA and China. This has been a gradual process developing over the course of the last few decades, and as such the realisation that in the foreseeable future the EU will no longer be part of a global “G2” may come as a surprise to some. The European Commission, however, has monitored the situation as it unfolds and taken on the role of resisting and managing the decline - consolidating the EU’s new place in the global economy while ensuring that decline does not lead to crisis.
One area of the Single Market that the EU had hoped to make more progress is in service sector reform, with a particular focus on cross-border service delivery. In 2007, the adoption of the Services Directive was expected to contribute up to 2% of the GDP of the EU. However, after a subsequent impact assessment these effects were readjusted to 0.2% as a result of missed opportunities. Since then the European Commission has conducted a number of public consultations on various reform proposals for regulatory requirements of service providers, but it remains to be seen whether further service sector reform will be a priority for Ms von der Leyen’s Commission.
Another topic discussed extensively was that of regulations and standards. The EU is considered to be something of a leading light in this area, and while this is certainly something to be proud of, it must be emphasised that having a comparative advantage in nothing but rules and regulation is far from desirable. In order for a healthy level of growth to continue the EU must further develop emerging industries such as technology and digitalisation. An economic union as large as the Single Market has huge potential in areas such as this that is not yet being utilised. Paradoxically, however, further developing the tech industry may require the EU to be less stringent on regulation - the innovation vs. regulation debate is fierce and ongoing.
Deputy Head of Commissioner Bieńkowska's Cabinet | European Commission
A Finnish national, Kristian Hedberg has been the Deputy Head of Commissioner Bieńkowska's Cabinet dealing with Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs since November 2014. Before that, he was Head of Unit dealing with Land Transport Policy in the Commission’s Directorate General for Mobility and Transport and in 2009 he was Head of Unit in DG Enlargement responsible for relations with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In 2007, he became the Deputy Head of the Cabinet of Commissioner Kuneva (Consumer policy). Mr Hedberg pursued his career as a Member of the Cabinet of Commissioner Liikanen (Enterprise policy and Information society) and later of the Cabinet of Commissioner Rehn (Enlargement policy). He joined the European Commission as a desk officer in DG Competition in 1996 and later worked in DG Enlargement. Kristian Hedberg holds an MBA/Economics degree from the Turku School of Economics in Turku, Finland and a post-graduate diploma from the School of International Relations of the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.