Steffi Czerny, founder of one of Europe’s most successful digital conferences, invited long-standing DLD friends, speakers and supporters to her home by Lake Tegernsee for the first DLD Hike.
A full house in Brussels: On the morning of 4 September, DLD founder Steffi Czerny and Bavarian State Minister Beate Merk welcomed around 300 participants to the second DLD Europe conference at the Representation of the Free State of Bavaria to the EU. “As a European conference, we are concerned by the increasing criticism of the EU,” Czerny began. “We firmly believe in the European idea and want DLD Europe to be an open platform for greater optimism and interdisciplinary discussions.”
Washington discusses, Brussels acts
Burda CEO Paul-Bernhard Kallen emphasised Brussels’ importance as a hub, quoting John Frank (head of Microsoft in Brussels) in his keynote speech: “Brussels is the center of regulation for the IT Industry. Washington D.C. talks about it but Washington D.C. doesn’t really do much. Brussels acts.” According to Kallen, this quote pinpoints the reason why Burda has held an innovation conference in Belgium since 2016.
Less football, more internet
How does Europe’s internet economy compare to the rest of the world? According to Clark Parsons, managing director of the Internet Economy Foundation, which was set up in 2016 as a cross-party foundation for dialogue with politics, the economy and society, Europe is lagging behind its international counterparts and focuses too heavily on the automotive industry, the financial sector and even on football. In Parsons’ opinion, it is high time that Europe caught up with the global market and built on the success of the Swedish music streaming service Spotify, which this year is set to become the first European company in the top 20 most successful internet companies worldwide.
No exit from Brexit
One highly anticipated speaker was Martin Selmayr, head of cabinet to Jean-Claude Juncker (President of the European Commission) and the most powerful civil servant in Brussels. Selmayr, who often polarises opinion and is viewed in government circles as an “enfant terrible”, began his talk with Jan Wolf Schäfer (Head of Politics and Business at Focus) by taking a swipe at the USA: “Unlike in other countries, European politics certainly don’t work via Twitter.” He explained that while the Trump era is a challenge for the EU, there are positive effects too – important partners are increasingly turning their backs on America and bringing new capital to Europe. With regard to the Brexit negotiations, Selmayr made his position very clear: “Brexit was a stupid decision, but it cannot be reversed. There will be no exit from Brexit.”
The discussion between Günther Oettinger, EU Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources, and Ludwig Siegele (Economist) also focused on Brexit. Oettinger expressed his astonishment that so many British media outlets and authorities still refuse to accept that Brexit is inevitable. “The Brexit decision was democratic, so a clear agenda is required on what will happen to the 3.2 million Europeans currently living in Britain, for example, and to the around one million Brits living outside the UK.”
“Google has more money than God”
Gary Reback, a US attorney and expert in antitrust law, provided another highlight of the second DLD Europe in Brussels. In a conversation with Andrew Keen, a critic of the internet, he vented his annoyance at Google’s misuse of power: “Google has so many financial resources that it sponsors countless government campaigns in the USA and increasingly in Europe too.” According to Reback, more and more EU representatives are on Google’s payroll, making a level playing field more important than ever to facilitate a fair competition in which he believes Europe will play a major role.