European leaders met in Lisbon today to set clear targets for making Europe a united and world-leading market for ecommerce.
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair attended the so-called dot.com summit, which officials hoped would address the need for "consensus on economic reform" to adapt to the new knowledge economy.
"We want this summit to set concrete targets as part of a reform programme to define the economic agenda for the Commission and for the Council over the next decade," said Blair's official spokesman.
The first objective is to create a "genuine single market for ecommerce", said the spokesman. This includes setting a clear timetable for pan-European telecoms liberalisation - something that is already underway across most of Western Europe.
Liberalisation is vital if Europe wants to get ecommerce transaction costs down to US levels, said the spokesman.
European leaders also want a date for the implementation of the ecommerce legal framework objective, a date for putting all European Union (EU) public procurement online and measures to promote mass internet literacy throughout schools.
The EU powers also intend to strengthen the European venture capital market "which is the backbone of the new knowledge economy, and job creation", said the spokesman.
The aim is to improve European research and development (R&D) performance, allow for faster and cheaper patenting of new technologies, and create better co-ordination of R&D, including developing links between universities and industry "where there are things happening in the US we can learn from", he said.
John Higgins, director general of the Computing Services and Software Association, said he does not expect "hard deliverables" from the summit. But he added that if it can create a "shared vision" and focus on ecommerce and the knowledge economy "it should seep into the activities of all European governments and their departments".
Higgins said he hopes that commitments would be made to "legalise electronic signatures throughout Europe [as enacted in the UK through the Electronic Communications Bill] and to harmonise internet law".
"Harmonising areas of applicable law and appropriate consumer protection laws is vital to ecommerce," he said.
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