France and Germany have pledged to increase their tech cooperation so Europe can progress towards becoming a global champion of digital technology.
Germany’s centre-left Social Democrats have voted in favour of forming a coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives. Talks have touched a number of sensitive issues, including calls to deepen ties with France. Their idea is to draw up a renewed Elysee Treaty to commemorate and build upon the 55th anniversary of the friendship treaty between the neighbouring countries. Following energetic new French President Emmanuel Macron plans for increased efforts to research artificial intelligence (AI), Germany has set to join in and jointly further innovation.
Macron’s efforts to promote France as a country open for business, aiming at becoming a leading hub for tech innovation has already caught major attention. On Monday, Europe’s biggest software company SAP said it will spend up to two billion euros investing in and nurturing French start-ups as part of its push into cutting-edge technologies. “There is a real sense of economic momentum in France,” said SAP chief executive Bill McDermott after Macron hosted talks with some 140 business leaders at the Versailles chateau near Paris.
Other firms attending Macron’s business summit made their public spending plans public: Facebook said it will pour an additional 10 million euros into artificial intelligence in France by 2022. Zuckerberg’s web leviathan also announced it would to train 65,000 people in digital skills in free schemes to help women set up businesses and the long-term unemployed get back to work. Google, for its part, said it plans to open a new artificial intelligence centre in France within weeks, its second in Europe after Zurich.
In response to French EU reform endeavours, the new German bloc has pledged to develop bilateral cooperation. “Strengthening of the cooperation between our two countries is a precondition for strengthening Europe,” said German Parliamentary President Wolfgang Schäuble. “That makes it all the more important to reinforce this central idea that neither Germany nor France have any future without Europe.” Social Democrat leaders joined the chant, making the Franco-German axis a key element of the coalition’s dynamic.
However, Germany still seems opposed to Macron’s suggestion of creating a European Innovation Agency, modelled on the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, to help the continent keep pace with technological discovery in China and the US. In remarks last week, Macron put forward the idea of an agency which may be run by EU member states. It “will make progress in the coming months,” he said. Such progress will however depend Berlin’s political support.
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