EU leaders gather in Estonia to discuss Europe's digital future

After having discussed a far-reaching vision for Europe, leaders of EU member states focus on the continent's digital future. A digital tax is expected to be a major component of the day's discussions.
A WiFi sign outside a snowed-in cabin in Estonia (picture-alliance/dpa/Estonian Tourist Board)
Estonia, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, called the summit on Friday in the Estonian capital of Tallinn to highlight potential lags in Europe's digitalization effort.
"There is so much to gain from the digital way of life if we do it the right way," Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas said before the leaders' meeting.
"Everybody can benefit from the digital revolution: I mean the public sector, also the private sector, enterprises, but first of all... our people, our children," Ratas added.
Estonia has been progressive in the digital arena. In 2005, the small Baltic nation became the first country in the world to allow its citizens to vote online and also handle other administrative issues – such as car registration – online.

Taxing the digital giants
One major component is the taxation of digital giants. Several national authorities have had tax fights with digital giants such as Google and Airbnb.
Emmanuel Macron speaking at a podium | Präsentation Europäische Initiative in Paris (Reuters/L. Marin)
French president Emmanuel Macron discussed Europe's future in a speech on Tuesday
In a speech on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron called high-tech companies the "freeloaders of the modern world." Macron has proposed taxing digital multinationals on the revenue generated in an EU country instead of on profits booked in a low-tax EU headquarters.
Ireland, which has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the world, houses the headquarters of Apple, Facebook and Google.
Nearly half the EU member states have already signed onto the idea, though they would like to see the tax applied worldwide, not just in Europe. But smaller EU states, such as Ireland, fear the tax proposal will cause these tech companies to relocate their headquarters.
Talks will also touch on cybersecurity and the free flow of data through Europe.
Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel (Getty Images/AFP/J. Skarzynski)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (left) and French president Emmanuel Macron (right) meet before the European summit in Estonia
Stronger Franco-German relationship
Macron's speech on Tuesday also included proposals to strengthen the eurozone and move the EU forward in the post-Brexit era. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, fresh off her victory in the German election but still about to start the process of putting together a coalition government, praised Macron on Thursday before the two met in the Estonian capital.
"I see a good basis in the speech of the French president for intensive cooperation between Germany and France," she said.

Some of the proposals Macron outlined in his speech included creating a eurozone finance minister and a separate eurozone budget. Merkel also said France and Germany were in agreement over proposals for the harmonization of corporate taxation and insolvency law as points.
"As far as the proposals were concerned, there was a high level of agreement between German and France. We must still discuss the details, but I am of the firm conviction that Europe can't just stay still but must continue to develop," she said.
EU leaders gather in Estonia to discuss Europe's digital future EU leaders gather in Estonia to discuss Europe's digital future Reviewed by Alexander Von Stern on 00:12:00 Rating: 5