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The president of the EU executive said the reason so many Europeans were in the US tech capital was because it is a cultural environment encouraging innovation, new businesses and risk-taking. His comments were challenged shortly afterwards by Commission Vice-President in charge of the digital agenda, Neelie Kroes. She said she was fed up with calls to copy the Valley and wanted to create a European culture of digital entrepreneurship.
Barroso insisted: “I was there not only with the big brands of Silicon Valley but the start-ups and the incubators of start-ups. I met so many Europeans there. One of the reasons they were there […] was precisely because of the general environment, the cultural environment in favour of innovation.”
Europe had to find out why young people are “attracted to other more dynamic places” for their careers, he said.
Some issues could be changed through regulation, such as the removal of national barriers between member states’ markets. The Commission continued to press the European Council to create a digital internal market and had proposed concrete regulation to achieve it, he added.
“[But] there are parts that have to do with mindset and culture,” he said. “This are not something you can solve with a directive […] this has to do with a culture of entrepreneurship.”
Europe has often struggled with comparisons to Silicon Valley. Entrepreneurs and their investors have cited the availability of finance, the willingness to fail and take risks as the world-renowned hub’s advantages over Europe.
Kroes said Europe still has a lot to offer. “I am starting with a little bit of a correction of my president […] It [Silicon Valley] is indeed a very fascinating area but let’s not copy it. Let’s be ourselves,” she said.
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