Digital Society – The Strength of German Politics Leads to the Decline of Europe

Exponentially increasing dependencies on Software and hardware manufacturers outside the EU were ignored by politicians. The citizens had no say in the resulting restrictions on their freedom rights.

At the press conference, Angela Merkel once again demonstrated why she is Chancellor in TV “Tagesthemen” of 22.45 a.m. on 15 October 2020. A pile of paper lay in front of her and was intended to help explain the new rules drawn up jointly at the Corona Summit. Merkel began to read from the notes. However, after a few notes, she confused the papers or found no relevant information in it. In real multitasking, one did notice in the lecture not for a second that at the same time she flipped through her papers in search of something relevant to find. Rather, she spoke without a point or comma, stylistically impeccable. No one was stigmatized. Everyone was integrated and exhorted. Content that could not be agreed on at this time – probably most of them – were avoided.

Like Mrs Merkel, one must act as a majority-capable politician. But increasingly missing those who identify unambiguous truths. When someone has found truth, he should not deviate a millimetre from the demands resulting from these truths. I see myself in such a position with regard to the demands for a digital society. I’ve been searching for truths for 25 years. As a politician, I’m completely unsuitable. I can get irritate myself in a short lecture when I realise that I thought one or the other not to an end. That’s why I prefer to post in writing or in videos that I can edit at will, until there are no questions left unanswered. For that, when I have thought something to the end, I am only very seldom mistaken.

The German government can score points in the pandemic because every citizen can directly notice the personal consequences of a measure and can be traced in the hospitals of Europe, what it means when the virus escalates. Above all, every citizen can participate in a common goal.

But it is precisely the strength of a Merkel-styled Germany with influencing the EU, which finds a compromise for everything and everyone, why i fear, will lead to Europe’s dissolution in the next ten years. Germany is doing well within Europe because we Germans are particularly good at sticking to rules. But if we compare Europe with Asia, we suddenly realise that even democratic countries such as South Korea survive with much fewer deaths and much less consequences for the Corona economy. In this way, they will become stronger in competition with Europe.

In Europe, it is argued that our freedom rights are a very high asset for us and that such a hard lockdown, as usual in Asia, is therefore out of the question. We also reject a complete tracking of infected people. The truth is, it has been so good for us for many years with a diplomacy of mediating that we have been able to afford freedom rights without having to do much for it. Politics has failed to take citizens along in a change that has now taken place without and against the citizens.

Not only is the Corona pandemic growing exponentially, but also global digitalisation is rapidly changing the world accordingly. Digitalisation relentlessly exposes the weaknesses of our policies. Today, the reference to our freedoms rights is often hypocritical because we have let decades pass unused without worrying about a digital strategy that preserves freedom.

As a downside of eternal mediation, Europe’s strategic vacuum has emerged in terms of preserving pre-digital democratic achievements. Diversity must not become the opposite of a social concept. But this is exactly what happens when, for example, a Belgian initiative against terrorism no longer dynamically wants to associate IP addresses but with groups of up to 16, then identifiable users, or Germany is constantly thinking about retention of personalised data and on the other hand, laws such as the GDPR or e-Privacy arise.

We can learn from Corona and dictatorships that a piece of dictatorship can be necessary in democracy. It is the dictatorship of truth. Ultimately, all Europeans have subjected themselves to the predictions of virologists in the pandemic. These predictions are nothing more than a scientific knowledge condensed to the truth. If, after many hundred years of social development, we in Europe have at least a majority understanding of the rule of law, civil rights and diversity, then these are truths that must be enforced without ifs and but also in digitalisation.

We can and must use Corona together with digitalisation to be better positioned in future pandemics than authoritarian states can do in their system limitations. We must take advantage of the opportunity to take every citizen on the digital journey. Together we are much stronger than a single dictator.

Unfortunately, the challengesare much higher and more complex than the Corona pandemic. Because digitisation doesn’t come suddenly. In a creeping process, over the past two decades, citizens have learned that they have to exchange their personal data and have to give up many civil rights if they want to participate in the digital society. Companies and states have understood too late what fundamental dependencies they have gone into. In order to understand the complexity of created dependencies, I recommend a podcast from the FAZ: “Why modern wars are waged with semiconductors”, see  a href=”https://m.faz.net/podcasts/f-a-z-digitec-podcast/warum-moderne-kriege-mit-halbleitern-gefuehrt-werden-16993545.html” 
So many steps have been taken without the citizens in the wrong direction, so that only with democratic processes the missed can no longer be made up.

One can certainly speak of the fact that digital Europe is an occupied zone that needs a Marshall Plan to get back on its own feet at all. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has called for such a Marshall Plan. I wrote a draft for a Marshall Plan and made it available to the European Commission. I have also participated in various consultations, see http://gisad.eu/statements/ .

As a prerequisite, I have assumed several truths which, in my view, have been scientifically proven to be acceptable without further democratic discussions:

  1. Digitalisation supports the natural laziness of people. Laziness is the enemy of self-empowerment. Democracies need to develop incentive systems to maintain or even further develop people’s self-empowerment in a digital society.
  2. Optimised (well-processed) data are a prerequisite for a successful European digital economy.
  3. The majority of people do not like to receive alms, but want to return something when receiving social benefits, as long as this stigmatisation-free is possible.
  4. The state needs digital tools to ensure security. In a digital society, these tools must not restrict citizens’ rights more than in a pre-digital society.

There are three objectives for the Marshall Plan, to which all other EU measures on digitisation have to be subordinated:

  1. The optimal processing and easy utilisation of digital data, while maintaining diversity and performance-adopted integration of all parties involved in the value creation.
  2. The stigmatisation-free, lifelong digital involvement of all citizens with incentives for self-development.
  3. Digitally guaranteeing the necessary state tasks to preserve the security of citizens, the economy and the state, while maintaining pre-digital democratic achievements.

Against the background of the above-mentioned truths, European countries are currently making the following mistakes:

  1. Simple data processing is hindered by the mix of personal data with information important to the general public. A civil rights infrastructure in an EU-D-S (European digital system) would remove obstacles and put Europe at the forefront of competition for the best data.
  2. Corona forces many people to work short-time or become unemployed. Many companies receive bridging aids and are not fully utilised. Here, at the expense of taxpayers, more money is given away than ever before. The unique opportunity is wasted to obtain high-quality data for Europe’s economy and citizens in return for the subventions that are then used in a meaningful way. At the same time, the wrong incentives are placed on the comfort of the citizens and against their self-development.
  3. Instead of creating an optimal infrastructure for citizens, the economy and the state, there is a constant struggle between the state and the economy for sovereignty over citizens’ personal digital data.

In the first quarter of 2021, the Commission will deal with all the submissions. It remains to be hoped that in the EU institutions the decision-makers will have the power to adopt against a policy of compromises shaped by Germany in favour of a European overall strategy of a Marshall Plan, which ultimately makes sense for all EU citizens. Through a smart digital citizen participation must be ensured that such a long lasting avoid development of the citizen rights can never be repeated.

Olaf Berberich