The task of governmental coordination is much more intricate at the European level given the fragmentation of policy making. For a policy to be designed, at least three kinds of coordination are required:
· coordination among different Directorates general within the European Commission, so that a clear plan of action can be proposed by the Commission to the Council.
· coordination among State members within the European Council of Ministers: State members must agree on common objectives and principles.
· coordination among the Commission, the European Council of Ministers, and the European Parliament which is necessary for a directive to be adopted.
The definition of the European policy for IS involves several Directorates general (see table 6). Conflicts between directorates may arise from their different priorities and approaches Traditionally, there is an opposition between, on the one hand the DGIV (Competition) and, on the other hand the DGIII (Industry) and DGXIII (Telecommunications, Information market and Exploitation of Research). Roughly, the DGIV is primarily concerned with the installation of competition and the abolishment of monopolies or dominant positions; it sees the development of IS as best achieved through the hidden hand of the marketplace. On the opposite, the DGIII and DGXII put a greater emphasis on public intervention (standards setting, financial assistance to research and development programs, etc.) to help the building-up of a coherent pan-European infrastructures.
[Insert Table 6 here.]
The difference of approaches is more striking when content matters come into play. Eloquent testimony of the conflicting values and approaches which exist within the Commission is given by the contrast between the Bangemann report (quite in line with the DGIV) and the Audiovisual Green paper which was sponsored by the DGX (Information, Communication, Culture and Audiovisual) and published the same year (EC, 1994). To basically reach the same goal (a strong European industry which can resist an exogenous threat), the Bangemann report puts its faith in market mechanisms, while the Green Paper underlines market failures and calls for intervention to secure desired ends (Collins, 1994).
IS implementation raises also various coordination problems which include:
· the transposition of European regulations into national legislation. Directives are not directly applicable to State members, but must be incorporated into national laws. If such transposition does not occur at about the same time, the whole coherence and dynamics of the European regulatory can be altered.
· administrative cooperation between State members to achieve an effective and equivalent enforcement of rules. This is a critical point. The implementation of regulations designed at the European level can be significantly hampered if there are cross-national variations in the detailed interpretation of rules or in the practices of regulatory agencies.
In order to complete an effective liberalization of the telecommunications market, the Bangemann report has suggested the creation of an independent European regulatory authority, which will take charge of licensing procedures, interconnection and network access, universal service funds. While this move is supported by many industrial representatives, its political acceptance by all State members is uncertain. National regulation has been sometimes used by State members to adjust European rules to their specific needs. Moreover, the creation of an European regulatory body would be one more step toward a political unification that is still strongly refused by some countries.
Coordination within European industry or by industry?
Since the development of IS in Europe will depend on private initiatives, some kind of coordination is also necessary among European firms and companies. If such a coordination failed to be provided, there is a risk that market forces lead to a duplication of efforts (for example in terms of R&D) - which may hamper European industry's competitiveness - , or to conflicting standards - which may inhibit consumers' demand for new products or services. Without a minimal coordination within the industry, the fragmentation of the European market along national lines would only be replaced by a fragmentation along corporate lines.
The European Union traditionally encourages industry coordination through research and development programs which aim at fostering cooperation, dissemination of results, training and mobility of researchers among European firms.
In addition to that, a new instrument has been set up for IS by the European commission with the creation of the Information society Project Office (IPSO) in December 1994. The aim of IPSO is "to support, promote and advise private and public initiatives related to the development of the information society". IPSO's main objectives are:
· to help industry and users make optimal use of the instruments and resources provided by the Commission,
· to act as a broker of ideas and solutions by contributing to the dissemination and sharing of information on experiences and best practices related to the development of new applications
· to facilitate the launching of relevant international co-operation and the setting up of new partnerships.
On their side, European firms have in some cases designed their own structures of coordination. The European Multimedia Forum is one outstanding example of such an effort. The Forum was set up during the Summer 1994 by a group of over 30 Europe-based telecommunications, computers, electronics, publishing and television companies. It aims at encouraging cross-industry synergy and partnerships, facilitate the exchange of information and act as an intermediary between businesses and government28. Another example is the Digital Video Broadcast group (DVB) in which 145 European industrialists, television stations and satellite operators have joined. The DVB has agreed on a common encryption code and a two-year code of good conduct starting in 1995 for future digital TV broadcasting.
On some occasions, existing interest groups may also act as forums for coordination and present public authorities with proposals for action. Two of the major business organizations, the European employers federation (Unice) and the European Round Table (ERT) which groups 39 leading European entrepreneurs, have fulfilled such a function by publishing reports on telecommunications29.
Industry coordination typically meets two conflicting problems:
· the possibility of free riders. If significant actors refuse to join, agreements which can be reached have little operative value30;
· too broad scopes or membership. In this case, valuable decisions or agreements cannot be reached due to the diversity of interests; or if decisions are made, they are purely formal.
While most industry leaders lament that industry coordination does not exist, which impedes Europe competitiveness, opinions on whether the European Union or the private sector should coordinate the development of Europe's IS are split. The Internet model is attractive to some who argue that there would be no need for a planning or coordinating central authority: IS could grow as a network of networks by the successive addition of building blocks.
However, it is doubtful that the Internet model can apply to IS. If the Internet could develop as a self-regulated network, it is largely because it was backed on a closed community, which shared common goals and values. In contrast, IS will involve a broader range of actors and conflicting interests. While the industry is able to coordinate technical problems, its ability (and willingness) to regulate social issues (e.g. undesirable contents) is uncertain.