Stronger together. For a digital Europe

Telekom’s CEO Tim Höttges takes up position in the discussion on the future of Europe. If some politicians appear to be giving up hope, "it is down to us as citizens and companies to fight for Europe and defend the European idea". "We are Europeans by conviction", emphasizes Tim Höttges.

Timotheus Höttges, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Deutsche Telekom AG

Timotheus Höttges, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Deutsche Telekom AG

When the current President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, talks about having to bury the "European dream," it should catch our attention. Sure, Europe isn't exactly arousing a lot of enthusiasm at the moment. For some it is too technocratic. Others have the distinct impression that Europe is no longer shaped by loyalty and solidarity, but by disloyalty and self-interest. The euro crisis, the refugee crisis, and the Brexit debate are the latest examples. Europe needs to take a break, is the word in Brussels. And with some people you get the impression they don't want to stop at a break, they want to turn back the European clock. Where previously the demands were for more Europe, now the voices are calling for more nation state.

Given the challenges facing the world – be they digitization, climate, fighting poverty, or many other issues besides – I believe there is something fundamentally wrong with this approach. But when even some of the politicians appear to be giving up, it is down to us as citizens and companies to fight for Europe and defend the European idea.

We, Deutsche Telekom, have consciously undertaken to become the leading European telecommunications company. We are Europeans by conviction. We believe that Europe and the European Union can provide exactly the right answers to the challenges and opportunities of digitization. That Europe is in fact much stronger than it is perceived to be. That because of this, we can grow in Europe and create value.

We, Deutsche Telekom, see Europe as a gain. We operate in 13 European markets. This makes us more international. Our different national companies share with each other. We learn from each other. And this makes us better. But the EU is not just an economic project. It is a peace project. Built from the ruins of this continent, the EU was founded on the idea that peace can be secured where people have relationships, through travel, work, or trade, say.

More than this, my personal enthusiasm for Europe has a lot to do with my background. It originates from the fact that for me, the image of a Europe without integration is not abstract, but very concrete. I can clearly envisage what it would mean if we didn't have Europe or the EU. And that is precisely why I don't want to be without Europe.

My Europe is different from the Europe witnessed by my grandparents. As a young man, I repeatedly traveled all over Europe by InterRail. A period that shaped and enriched me. Not just because I made new friends. But also because it allowed me access to new, different cultures. And for me it was a positive thing to be able to identify with an idea that includes my native country, but also reaches beyond it. An idea that is bigger than a single nation and is therefore the glue that binds our unique diversity. Namely the idea that democracy, freedom, social security, prosperity for all, humanization of work, respect for civil rights, and much more besides, can create a strong unity. This is unique in the world. I am proud, for example, that our European Court of Justice comprehends a "right to be forgotten" on the Internet. And that, not only do we have a Charter of Fundamental Rights, but that the values it embodies can also be challenged in the courts if necessary.

Europe also offers very practical advantages. The removal of borders and cumbersome border controls. Or the creation of a single currency for 330 million people. Lots of people are nostalgic for the Deutschmark. For me personally, exchanging currency every time I went on holiday was a real pain. And the fact that three million young people have spent an extended period abroad through the Erasmus program: that is Europe too.

Our entrepreneurial action as Deutsche Telekom also fits with the European idea. We connect people and companies. We deal with digital responsibility. Our network does not differentiate between people. No matter how old, or where they are from. You can't see it. But its arms are open. And it gives the feeling of connectedness with people, information and something bigger than any one person can be on their own.

Digitization hands us a tool with which we can secure the prosperity we have worked for for the next generation, and organize participation in this prosperity. The consultancy McKinsey even talks about a window of opportunity that is currently opening. Stable annual growth of two to three percent could be possible if Europe does its homework.

That includes creating a European single digital market; then we will form a counterweight to the services from North America or Asia, which enjoy advantages from the size of their domestic markets alone. It includes further connecting Europe, e.g., with the new integrated 5G mobile communications standard, which will enable the industry applications of the future. But it also includes expanding our globally unique craftsmanship and art of manufacturing to include software capabilities, which will provide for the next productivity boost. And that we set the standards for Industry 4.0.

Europe has achieved a great deal:

  • We account for 24 percent of global GDP, just behind North America at 26 percent and ahead of China at 11 percent.
  • We account for 15 percent of global export trade, well ahead of the United States at 10.7 percent.
  • According to the World Economic Forum, ten of the 20 most competitive economies come from Europe. As do 142 companies on the Forbes 500 list. The United States have only 128.

At Deutsche Telekom, we believe that Europe will continue to leverage its potential in the future. We don't need to hide our light under a bushel. Google, Facebook and Twitter may not have been conceived in Europe. But the database system they are based on, My S-Q-L, comes from Sweden. Perhaps we Europeans should simply be prouder and louder about our products, and in so doing market them even better than we currently do.

I believe that the digitization of Europe will give a new fillip to growth and prosperity. That close cooperation between countries and companies is the prerequisite for this. And that the EU in turn creates the framework that makes this possible. Europe offers a great deal: not just to companies, but above all to people. That is why I am primarily addressing the young generation at Deutsche Telekom: Don't just enjoy the advantages Europe offers you. Don't take them for granted. Rather support Europe actively. Defend the achievements that enable you to enjoy the peace and freedom that generations before you could not. Live the European dream.