Macron Calls for Tighter European Market to Boost Tech Firms

(Bloomberg) -- French President Emmanuel Macron called for a tighter-knit European market to boost technology startups, highlighting a challenge the region has struggled with for decades.

“We need to better integrate our 27-nation market,” Macron said in a speech at Station F, the Paris startup campus built by telecommunications tycoon Xavier Niel. “This is a key to our success” in expanding our market to compete with the U.S. and China, he added.

The speech on Tuesday comes as Macron seeks to lift France from a “startup nation” to a country of global-player technology companies. Before the Station F town-hall meeting, the 40-year-old leader met with 25 French tech chiefs at his Elysee palace -- among them Niel, who amassed a fortune thanks to his phone carrier Iliad SA, Jean-Baptiste Rudelle, founder of Internet advertisement platform Criteo SA and ride-share company Blablacar’s Frederic Mazzella.

Macron burnished his tech-friendly credentials in his previous job as economy minister, attending events like the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show, where he promoted the vitality of France’s startup ecosystem. Since becoming president last year, he’s welcomed top executives of U.S. tech giants like Facebook Inc.’s Mark Zuckerberg in Paris, visited a mega-campus for upstarts in the capital and often spoken about encouraging innovation.

Tech Vision

French Digital Minister Mounir Mahjoubi told Bloomberg last month that by 2020 the country expects to have some companies with at least 150 million euros ($172 million) in funding.

Much of what needs to be done to boost firms isn’t state controlled, Macron said, adding that the government had done its fair share to promote spending by introducing a flat tax for investors making profits, and with a new visa that’ll ease immigration for tech workers.

The French president called for more foreign investments into French tech firms, and urged his European pears to have an “ambition for Europe” in technology.

He closed his speech by saying that the “best should win, not the biggest. Unfortunately, at the moment, it’s the biggest that are winning.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.