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European Information Society

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Criticism of this articleEdit

People living in Europe are very unlikely to have heard of the European Information Society. It is unclear to this author if the European Information Society is something Liberapedia should support or just another pressure group pressing for the commercial interests of the private sector within the European telecommunications industry. The European Union has done a great deal to establish and maintain peace and democracy in Europe. European people are suspicious of attempts to force further European Integration. In many European nations, people have voted against further integration. Trying to push integration further than Europeans want could weaken commitment to Europe and reduce the strength of the European Union when it is trying to solve problems and achieve excellence.

The EIS and European IntegrationEdit

The progression and increase in size of the European Information Society (henceforth referred to as EIS) serves the interests of European integration and those of anyone who stands to gain from an increasingly integrated and unified Europe. By endeavouring to increase access to the internet and other interstate communication channels, the intensity of its usage on the European continent, the project of European integration becomes greater in speed and scope as more and more people(s) are brought into contact together on a pan-European basis.

The EIS project was initiated and improved upon in the wake of the economic successes of the American telecommunications market throughout the 80s and the 90s (George 1995), and perceived European regression on economic and technological fronts. In seeking to bring the Information Society and the use of ICT to Europe, the European Commission has had been instrumental in opening access and improving whatever existing individual initiatives have had been made by other parties previously (Commission of the European Communities, 2006), and its reach can be very In addition to that, provision of structural funds (EU Committee of the Regions, 2006) have also been used as a means to improve that same access to communication networks in backwater regions of Europe that have otherwise been less integrated into the pan-European polity than their more interconnected counterparts, such as Germany and the Scandinavian nations.

The EIS: Origins and motives for integrationEdit

The European Union has had taken interest in the progress made by the American economy under the Clinton presidency of 1993-2001 which featured the rise of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) recognised the economic uses of the internet and saw government support for the development of e-commerce (House of Lords,2000) and as such, it subsequently sought to emulate that same strategy itself. The Bangemann Report (1994, Cap 1 Art 1) calls for an increased role of ICT in the EU and marks it as an integral component of sustaining the Single Market and providing further avenues of cultural development and efficiency (Layton 1969, p 223).

To achieve the EIS, the Report advocates liberalising the telecommunications market to give precedence to the private sector in advancing innovation in the telecommunications sector. Is all this European Integration stuff an excuse for privatisation? (Bangemann 1994, Cap 4) and eliminate what it considers in its own terms as “non-commercial burdens” on telecommunications operators, in order to yield “…lower costs and better relations between public administrations and European citizens.” (ibid, Ch 4 App 9). A further step towards the EIS was made by the EU in 2000 with the Council of Lisbon (Danish Technological Institute 2005, p 30) and the adoption of what was then later known as the Lisbon Agenda which, among other things, calls for the establishment of a sustainable and robust k-based economy “with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion (ibid, p 18)”. To this end, in concert with member-state efforts to digitise, the Commission has also sought to liberalise telecommunications as a means of speeding up the transition of Europe to the EIS, alongside the provision of structural funds to help develop this sector in various regions, as well as opening new points of access to EU institutions for various parties.

It is expected that as a catalyst of integration, the EIS is expected to act as a catalyst to integration by providing the infrastructure for the foundation of a common European social area, rather than transferring away power from the member-state governments to pan-European institutions. Rather than unite people together as a single supranational entity, Delhey (2004, pp 6-7) says that European integration involves connecting all European peoples into a new social space where whilst they maintain their native nationalities and allegiances, they too will see themselves as Europeans. Delhey also adds the possible means by which this European social space, although “empty (ibid., p. 7)”, would become increasingly populated and socially relevant as interstate flows of people pick up, via business contacts, leisure and tourism, and the like. All these require efficient communications networks for facilitating coordination and interaction between states, thus the EIS would possibly be an invaluable aid if not sine qua non to European social integration.

The Lisbon Agenda: integrating the marketEdit

In accordance with the Lisbon Agenda, the EIS also serves as a catalyst of European integration by bringing various parties together to transcend national geographical and ideological boundaries throughout Europe. Apart from the diffusion of ICT in Europe, the Commission has also played a part in enforcing competition in the telecommunications market (European Commission, currently available at: http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/ecomm/todays_framework/competition/index_en.htm). At the same time, the Commission has stressed the role that the EIS would play in Europe, particularly the role that telecommunications and other new media technologies in the industrial sector as a source of revenue and employment (European Commission 2004, currently available at: http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/eeurope/i2010/docs/communications/new_chall_en_adopted.pdf).

Before the arrival of the internet, the abilities of governments and public agencies to inject a popular element into policy making was extremely limited. The best means of bringing in vox populi was via parliaments or legislatures for which the electorate would send deputies to represent them and negotiate for them in the policy-making process, but even this would render extremely limited access for citizens. By using the broad reach of the internet, the Commission now seeks to draw in more people into the policy process via producing new avenues of access and new means of policy delivery (Anon. 2001, currently available at: http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/01/519&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en) as well as the dissemination of knowledge and information which it itself sees as vital for the Single Market and the socio-economic life of the EU. Secondly, inter-region networks such as EUROCITIES are another means of political integration as allowing cities to work with each other over wide geopolitical reaches gives rise to common goals and conflicts which will further necessitate the need for pan-European brokering to resolve these aforesaid conflicts and assist in counselling and setting objectives for the common good of all parties. Also, the usage of IT amongst governmental organisations of the EU and its member-states also allows greater coordination of cooperative efforts in achieving policy outcomes. The EIS helps to develop and sustain these lateral networks by providing infrastructure and avenues of discourse by which European citizens and institutions alike will be included in the decision making process (Borrás 2007, p.3, currently available at: http://eiop.or.at/eiop/index.php/eiop/article/view/2007_001a/41).

In light of the Commission’s idealised projection of European industrial competencies, the infusion of the economic life of Europe is also seen as a means of facilitating integration of European society by providing better means of control, coordination and cooperation amongst business units involved in Europe-wide operations. In theory, a cost-efficient telecommunications network should be able to pass on benefits to corporate users by facilitation of communications and collaboration amongst firms and workers alike (Bangemann, 1994, Ch. 9, currently available at: http://europa.eu.int/ISPO/infosoc/backg/bangeman.html). The EC is of the opinion that apart from being a viable economic sector worthy of development, the availability of trans-European networks, whether by cellphone or internet, now means that more and more companies will now be able to be integrated together as trans-European or even pan-European entities, depending on the nature, scope and location(s) of these aforesaid entities. Large corporate companies such as Colt Pte. Ltd. and Italy’s Tiscali (based in Sardinia!) are all further evidence of the EIS at work in increasing the economic integration of European markets and economic zones together.

Political and economic entities aside, ICT is also seen as a means of integrating otherwise diverse, divided and dissociated (and sometimes disenfranchised) European individuals and groups into one single society. Since the Single Market (as defined under the Single European Act) is reliant on the theoretical free movement of persons within the European economic sphere (The Single European Act 1986, currently available at: http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/emu_history/documents/treaties/singleuropeanact.pdf), some efforts have been made to help various groups and societies using cyberspace as a means of reaching out to a larger audience. The EC is well aware of the Eurosceptic sentiments felt by some sectors of European society, and the apathy or a lack of awareness of EU activities amongst citizens in European countries themselves (http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/site/en/com/2006/com2006_0035en01.pdf). The means of achieving this may include supply-side reforms to make the internet more accessible to the public at large (Bangemann), and/or directly improving the ability of independent bodies such as academic institutions to cooperate with each other on the pan-European level (Commission of the European Communities, 2006). Such use of networks are aimed at changing the attitude of the public towards what is seen as an impersonal if not “faceless” (ibid) entity that seems to play little or no significant role in their daily lives

It appears that support for the EIS is one of the Commission’s means of introducing European integration, but via a “soft” approach by encouraging what Delhey calls “social integration” in contrast to “political integration”. True to this indeed, the somewhat radical positioning of the Commission since the Bangemann Report on how the EIS should be implemented has since petered out, due to opposition to its agenda then from the member-states and the populace therein. Nonetheless, the cost-saving measures achieved by the EIS in the field of communications is indeed consolidating the integration of Europe as a whole, be it as an engine of integration by itself or aiding others along the way. Delhey’s work (2004) suggests that rather than looking at integration as convergence towards a monolithic pan-European state, the process of European integration should be seen as a process of socialising Europeans with a sense of unity and familiarity with each other via interaction with one another. As interaction gives rise to informal networks and causes for social interdependence and concern, it also garners support for further steps towards political integration as the degree of interconnectedness amongst Europeans increases.

Whither the EU?Edit

Ultimately, the EIS and usage of pan-European networks as a new means of integrating Europe, which is seen as a crucial step towards what the Commission calls “mass” (European Commission (b), currently available at: http://ec.europa.eu/education/doc/official/keydoc/lb-en.pdf) in order for Europe and the European nations to obtain a new geopolitical role of relevance in an increasingly globalised world. While it is very true that the efforts in creating this new form of networked government have had their origins in the presence and influence of the EC, the Commission’s spearheading the creation of a EIS should not be interpreted, though, as a transfer or even an attempt at the usurpation of power from member-states to the pan-European polity, but rather that the EC is naturally trying to preserve itself as a going concern within the European polity. Consolidating the process of integration via the EIS and the development of further networks to enfranchise the common citizen will increase the relevance and need for the EC within the boundaries of the geopolitical landscape of European society by creating new areas of regulation which then generate new roles and responsibilities for the EC in this new Europe which it itself seeks to create and sustain.

See alsoEdit

SourcesEdit

  • Layton, C. (1969), European advanced technology : a programme for integration, London : Political & Economic Planning

External linksEdit

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