The ministers of the economy from Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany met to discuss COVID, digitalization, and the European Single Market. It’s a good sign that finally the topics shaping our future are back on the table. 

Every year the ministers of the economy of Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany meet to discuss the most pressing economic challenges. This year, Daniel Risch (Liechtenstein), Guy Parmelin (Switzerland), Margarete Schramböck (Austria), and Peter Altmaier (Germany) had to hold their meeting via video-conferencing.

The digital format fits the contents of their discussions: Digitalization in Europe was a key point on the agenda, besides the economic challenges of the COVID-pandemic. “In addition to the current crisis management, we also discussed key issues for the future, such as strengthening the single market and the multilateral trade order, as well as the green and digital transformation,” said German Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier.

Looking ahead again: innovation and digitalization

COVID has somewhat overshadowed all economic meetings and discussions recently, but it’s good to see that politicians start discussing digitalization agendas again, a crucial topic for Europe’s future.

“Effectively mitigating the economic consequences of the Corona pandemic and offering appropriate, balanced support services remains central to all of us,” says Daniel Risch. “Despite the ongoing uncertainties surrounding the pandemic, however, we must not lose sight of the future. We have therefore focused an equally important part of our discussion on innovation, future technologies, and the advancing digitalization throughout the European single market.”

Many examples have also demonstrated over the past year that the challenges of COVID and accelerating digitalization go hand in hand. Digital tools have, on many occasions, helped people, businesses, and institutions to better deal with the pandemic.

“The Corona crisis shows us how important digitalization is to sustain our economic and governmental system and make it even more powerful,” says Margarete Schramböck. “Digital transformation is a crucial lever for competitiveness, growth, and prosperity across Europe. We therefore want and need to use digitization consciously and across departments. That is why we welcome the continuation of the Digital Single Market Strategy and are using this meeting to further and emphatically drive forward joint projects.”

The digital single market

The European single market will make digitization significantly easier if rules are harmonized, and business and users can enjoy the services cross-border without legal or technical complications.

“In the current times, which present our four countries with great challenges, we need each other more than ever. Through pragmatism, flexibility, and courage, we can master this extraordinary situation. Our excellent bilateral economic relations certainly help us do so: Last year, Germany and Austria accounted for a quarter of the Swiss economy’s global trade volume. Economic relations are also close with Liechtenstein.”

It’s definitely good that this topic is back on the priority list.

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