It’s not clear Europe can really take on ‘Gafa’ and ‘Bat’


Brussels is finally trying to become something more than a lifestyle and values superpower. According to the Financial Times, the European Union is considering plans to launch a €100bn sovereign wealth fund to finance European industrial champions.

The idea is that they compete with the four US tech giants known as the “Gafa” (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon) as well as China’s heavyweight trio “Bat” (Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent). Europe believes Gafa and Bat now “manage the global digital agenda” and it wants a piece of the action.

This is good.

A “European Future Fund”, plans for which have apparently been drafted by civil servants, would put the continent on a slightly different trajectory to the one it’s pursued. It could be argued that Europe has set a course that pays more attention to human rights and happiness than almost anything else. In some ways, Europe could be said to work to fulfil a very American aspiration – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That it now wants to invest in strategic sectors where it lags behind global rivals is all to the good.

We’ll only know after the new European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen takes office on November 1 how her promised focus on “innovation and research” will pan out. She has also vowed to “redesign our economy and update our industrial policy”. It is easier said than done. Paris and Berlin are likely to be willing to go along; not so the Dutch. As is always the case with Europe, decisions by committee take forever or tend not to happen in the way originally planned.