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Boosting Europe’s Digital Leaders: A New Momentum for the D9+

Boosting Europe’s Digital Leaders:
A New Momentum for the D9+

By Lucinda Creighton and Clara Riedenstein

The D9+ should become a voice against protectionism and a positive messenger for an open digital economy, pushing Europe to meet its ambitious goals for the Digital Decade. While the European Union’s largest economies often have proved hesitant to embrace the digital revolution, the continent’s smaller countries are racing ahead. Nordic, Baltic, and other small countries are pioneering digitalization in both their public and private sectors. These “digital frontrunners” banded together in 2016 to create the Digital Nine (D9) group.

The nine frontrunners gave themselves a mission to provide tech leadership. They were pro-tech, but not anti-regulation. From its inception, the D9 has prioritized constructing a genuine single European digital market, making it easy for both startups and tech giants to grow and scale. As pioneers, the D9 members have aimed to serve as an example.

Hard as it is to believe, the Europe of 2016 remained uncertain about how to grapple with the depth and dynamism of the digital challenge, and about how the Internet would be the key driver of future economic growth and success. Over the next eight years, the D9 became the D9+, expanding its membership to the east in 2018 and the south in 2020.

Today, the question is no longer whether Europe will digitalize, but how. Two paths lie ahead: one protectionist, the other open and accepting of competition and cooperation with democratic allies. The debate is no longer whether to regulate, but how to enforce strict new laws. Without clear guidance, capitals risk adopting different interpretations of legislation, undermining the digital single market, and leading to dangerous complications for Europe’s competitiveness.

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