26 September 2018, Poligon, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Zavod 14 together with  European Liberal Forum (ELF), Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung für die Freiheit and Institute Novum jointly organised an event »Workshop with a Round Table: Opportunities and challenges of the sharing economy«, connecting an international audience from the business community, academia and politics. Sharing economy is creating new opportunities for both consumers and entrepreneurs within the EU. In addition, the sharing economy also has a significant impact on the quality of life by providing opportunities for additional income, a polygon for getting to know entrepreneurship and preparing for entry to the labour market. Attendees of the workshop addressed the new business models that are emerging, with the help of the Business Model Canvas for the EU and Slovenian legal framework. By taking a bottom-up approach, new opportunities offered by the sharing economy were looked for, with search  for the positive impact to the quality of life of specific target groups. After the workshop, attendees were addressed by Zavod 14 Director Aleksander Aristovnik, General Director of Internal Market Directorate (Ministry of Economic Development and Technology) Mr. Franc Stanonik and Erik Liss of the Europeal Liberal Forum.

The highlight of the event was the panel session »Challenges and Limitations of the Sharing Economy« where guests described some of the restrictions created by the current legislation and the possibilities for the sharing economy’s future development in the EU and Slovenia. Speakers on the panel were Matija Damjan of the University of Ljubljana, Petra Weingerl of the University of Maribor, Ivan Vrdoljak of the Croatian People’s Party – Liberal Democrats, Lukasz Dąbroś of the Nowoczesna Party from Poland, Jan Klesla from the Institute for Politics and Society, Czech Republic, Pavel Peterka from the CETA Institute, Czech Republic, and Eszter Nova from the Financiral Research Insitute, Hungary. The event was moderated by Gregor Plantarič of Zavod 14.

Jan Klesla, Institute for Politics and Society from Czech Republic, presented the situation in Czech Republic, especially in its capital Prague. The two most recognizable examples of shared economy are Uber and Airbnb, first being very popular among people, and second a bit less. The difference comes especially due to the effects both platforms bring to people. Taxi services are rather bad in Prague and Uber offered an alternative that people welcomed. On the other hand, Airbnb is believed to be a culprit for the increase of rents in the city. The main challenge Klesla emphasized is how to appropriately regulate the new services: not to limit them too much, but still to be in the interest of the general public.

Pavel Peterka from the CETA Institute, also from Czech Republic, reiterated that the quality of current services – in case of Uber – taxis, were the main reason why Uber was so welcomed in Prague. He further elaborated on the issues that arose, especially regarding regulations for Prague’s taxi services. With the intention to improve the quality of services, authorities imposed stricter measures to become a taxi driver, which in fact made things even worse as it limited the competition. Uber came to the market, not following all the rules, but many people see it as the one fulfilling the purpose of the authorites’ intentions when passing the regulation. Peterka also said that laws should protect customers, cultivate the market and create conditions for doing better business. »The era of new technologies improves our lives and we should all learn from it and embrace it, rather than banning or regulate it,« he said in the discussion.

Ivan Vrdoljak of the Croatian People’s PartyLiberal Democrats emphasized that the regulation of the new business models, including sharing economy, is a big challenge for politics. These bussinesses are acting differently than the old ones, especially regarding entering a new market. As opposed to the traditional investors, they look at other things, thus having some of the sharing economy businesses all over the world, from Switzerland, Croatia, to Pakistan or Belarus. They often do not wait for all the regulation to be passed as the governments are just not agile enough. »Sharing economy businesses are changing how we run politics. As opposed to before, they come to the market and we, politicians, are jumping,« he said in the discussion and agreed that the sharing economy opens new opportunities and that it is on politics to learn. Trying to oppose the new models would just mean losing time.

Petra Weingerl from the Faculty of Law of the University of Maribor addressed the legal issues with the new business models, especially from the perspective of consumer protection. In her words, often the lines that are clear with the traditional bussinesses, are often blurred with the new ones, especially online. This becomes apparent when asking about the roles the parties are playing when transactions are executed. Who is the customer? Who is the consumer? A platform, Uber for example, can play a double role: a provider of information services or a trader. She emphasized these issues are important when deciding on the consumer protection, which is also addressed on the EU level (e-commerce directive).

Matija Damjan from the University of Ljubljana presented the research he conducted regarding the short-term apartment market in Ljubljana. The market has been significantly influenced by short-term platforms, like Airbnb, as is in cities with increased number of tourists. The common reaction of most authorities is to try to regulate and limit the way of short term rentals, reasons being different: to prevent tax evasion, prevent unfair competition to traditional hospitality providers or protect the interests of other apartment owners who live in their apartments. In his words, the important issue when trying to regulate is how to distinguish a proper sharing economy activity from the regular business when renting an apartment. This is a big question for many cities. In Slovenia the situation is quite unclear from the perspective of housing legislation, but the tax authority made it clear when and how are these activities taxed. However, the tax aspect is separate from other aspects and issues that are arising.

Eszster Nova from the Financial Research Insitute in Hungary addressed the role of politics when deciding on regulation and applied it to the taxi and housing markets in Budapest. She described the situation, emphasizing the protection of consumers is rather ineffective if the politics is the sole decider. That is why she sees the opportunity in shared economy platforms and their approach to performing business. However, they can still be effectively obstructed with politicians deciding for their own benefits.

Łukasz Dąbroś from Nowoczesna Party in Poland described their proposal of regulating ride sharing services in Warsaw. Being very popular, but without proper regulation, there are several issues, including the safety of passengers. Larger taxi providers supported their initiative as they wanted less egal uncertainty, but independent taxi drivers opposed it as they felt threatened by the new business opportunities. The topic remains hot, similar to other cities around Europe, challenging old business models.

The interesting roundtable was concluded with discussion with the audience. The common view of the attendees was that if there is a need to regulate, the key is in cooperation among the businesses and the authorities. It is also a responsibility of the businesses to regulate themselves and discuss the issues with the authorities and propose their solutions.

 


The event is organized by

ZAVOD14

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An event organised by the European Liberal Forum (ELF). Supported by Zavod 14 in collaboration with Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung für die Freiheit and Institute Novum. Co-funded by the European Parliament.

Neither the European Parliament nor the European Liberal Forum are responsible for the content of the programme, or for any use that may be made of it. The views expressed herein are those of the speaker(s) alone. These views do not necessarily reflect those of the European Parliament and/or the European Liberal Forum asbl.