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Solutions for a Single European Electronic Market

The European Commission’s goal of establishing a Single European Electronic Market (SEEM) is being given a boost by a project that has brought together experts and stakeholders from across the continent and beyond to identify challenges and recommend solutions.

The IST-funded SEEMseed initiative aims to “seed the development and implementation of the SEEM concept to create a virtual space where individuals and companies of any size can come together to do business without technological or linguistic restrictions,” explains project coordinator María José Núñez at AIDIMA in Spain.

A roadmap based on the input of more than a 1,400 experts, and public and private stakeholders is due to be published by the project in July, outlining what needs to be done from a business, technological and regulatory standpoint to make the SEEM a reality.

Though many small, mostly sector or area-specific electronic marketplaces have emerged on the internet in recent years, they remain highly fragmented and fall short of the SEEM goal of providing any company anywhere in Europe with easy, secure and trustworthy access to clients, suppliers and partners.

From a technological viewpoint the barriers to interoperability between the systems used by different firms need to be overcome, while new electronic market solutions need to provide access in various languages and be simple and cheap, “even free,” to deploy notes Núñez.

“This is especially important for small and medium enterprises, which make up the vast majority of companies in Europe,” she says.

The demand-driven electronic market model that emerged from SEEMseed’s consultations was put into practice in a multilingual prototype for the waste management sector that brought together industrial firms, transporters and waste processors. It was built around a registry of businesses in the sector and a repository of data related to business processes.

“A company in Spain that needs to dispose of hazardous materials could easily find a waste processor in France who can solve their problem, for example,” Núñez says. “They could also negotiate the contract and carry out other processes online.”

However, the prototype also underscored the regulatory and business challenges that need to be addressed to bring a continent-wide SEEM into being.

“Virtually all regulations are geared toward paper transactions. There is little legislation to support e-business models,” the coordinator notes.

On top of that there is also the issue of trust, with Núñez arguing that national authorities should be in charge of deciding which companies are allowed into the electronic market.

These challenges are not insurmountable, however, and although Núñez believes the road will be “long and difficult” she is confident that such a revolutionary marketplace will eventually emerge.

SEEMseed’s roadmap, she says, will probably be closely followed by the European Commission to ensure it does.

Tara Morris | alfa
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