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The European Commission’s vice president defends plans to unite the fragmented internet economy of European states.

European Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip, Head of the Digital Single Market. Francois Lenoir / Reuters

European Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip praised the European Union's plans for the creation of a unified digital economy at an event hosted by the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. He also addressed criticism that such an initiative would harm American businesses and serve as a protectionist ploy.

“With a digital single market, we have been accused of unfairly targeting U.S. tech companies. This is not true,” Ansip said. He went on to cite the number of recent antitrust and merger cases pursued by the EU, noting that U.S.-based companies were involved in only a minority of them.

The proposed “digital single market,” a pan-European economy to bolster the international trade of IT and web services, is estimated by EU officials to contribute 415 billion euros to the EU. With a 16-point road map scheduled to be completed by the end of next year, commissioners hope to offer improved access to digital goods and services. The DSM has been framed as an extension of the EU's project to unite a patchwork of national economies, consolidating the regulatory maze of 28 member states into a simplified market.

Vice President Ansip's remarks come at a time when European authorities are closely scrutinizing some big American tech firms. Facebook's privacy settings are being proved by regulators in Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands, and Belgium. In a case brought by EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, Google has been charged with favoring its own products over those of rivals, . And Amazon recently changed its European tax practices amid a commission investigation into the company's tax-avoidance strategy in Luxembourg.

Ansip, who insists the EU harbors no bias toward U.S. tech companies, said Europe should not be viewed as a data fortress preventing trans-Atlantic trade.

Indeed, Ansip argued that an EU inquiry into the market power of online platforms run by Google and others mirrors the Federal Trade Commission's interest in studying the business practices and policy challenges posed by sharing economy firms like Uber and Airbnb. “We have the same problems, the same concerns about platforms in the United States and also in the European Union,” he said.

While the commission's economic proposal aims to inspire a Silicon Valley across the Atlantic, Ansip believes the benefits won't be exclusive to the EU. The digital single market “will provide opportunities for trade, investment, innovation not only for Europe, but globally — also, for the United States” he said.

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