Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda
Supporting innovation and investment in ICT
European Parliament Committee on Industry, Research and Energy ( ITRE)
European Parliament, Brussels, 22 November 2011
Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am delighted to have been invited back here today, and to share with you the many exciting developments.
It has indeed been a momentous year for the evolution of our digital society and progress in the research that underpins ICT.
This Committee has played a major part, helping in several ways to create an advanced digital society in Europe.
The European Parliament and Council recently reached political agreement on the Radio Spectrum Policy Programme, now due to be formally adopted early next year.
The Programme will strengthen the Single Market for wireless applications, improve EU spectrum management, and make a significant amount of spectrum available for wireless broadband and 4th generation mobile. The Programme will also look at the future spectrum needs in all domains, and will increase transparency in future spectrum distribution.
Your continued commitment to achieving this agreement has been welcome. And I would like to thank in particular Mr Hokmark, the rapporteur, and Mr Reul, who, with a number of colleagues from this Committee, have burned the midnight oil in the course of the many trilogues.
This brings me onto another major project currently on our radar, the future Roaming Regulation.
I am sure that you share my determination to bring about significant, lasting and structural changes in the roaming market. I know that you need to bring home a clear and simple message that resonates with citizens. Users want a fairer deal and for charges to be reasonable, without fearing that their phone bill abroad will cost more than their holiday. I want this too.
But we should cure the disease, not merely dress the symptoms. We need a lasting solution that delivers a new offer and genuine competition. Competition has brought down prices in other markets like air travel: it can bring down roaming prices too.
Price caps will be needed for quite some time until the effects of the structural solution are fully felt. And we are now also introducing these caps for data roaming. But they must be set at the right level: to be a consumer safety net that leaves sufficient margins for competition to develop. Caps that are too low will not be effective.
And experience has shown that they are not the whole answer. To prise open markets and introduce real consumer choice, price regulation must not hamper effective competition.
I appreciate the broad support for this proposed approach. I know some questions have been raised about the technical implementation of our proposed "decoupling" structural measure. On this, I have already made clear that we are open to examine different implementing solutions and we are having fruitful discussions with BEREC. In fact, any technical solution or combination of solutions that leads to easy choices for consumers and real competition is acceptable for us.
Importantly, in terms of timing, we need ambition to achieve agreement at first reading, and thus ensure adoption before the current Regulation expires at the end of next June.
Otherwise, there will be a regulatory gap. The consumer could see the safety net disappear, and will have to wait longer for competition and choice to take off.
The other major dossier on which we are working together is ENISA.
As you know it is my clear ambition to reinforce the Agency and make it more efficient. We need to support the EU Institutions, Member States and society at large in getting better Internet security.
This means two things. First, ENISA must be able to attract and to retain the very best IT security experts in Europe. Second, ENISA staff and stakeholders must have the best conditions for networking. This is essential for the Agency to carry out its mission successfully.
As from the beginning of October, ENISA has a mobile assistance team working out of Athens, so they can help Member States reinforce Internet security capabilities. This is a very positive development.
I am confident that the European Parliament, in the context of the on-going legislative process, is ready and able to come up with solutions to improve efficiency and attractiveness of the Agency. Including arrangements for teams to work out of Athens. We are prepared to consider any improvement in a modified proposal before the Council adopts its common position.
Internet security does not, however, stop with a more muscular ENISA. The many diverse threats to Internet security call for a broad-based approach.
So, I am planning an ambitious strategic initiative on Internet security at European level. By 2015 our strategy would aim to put in place robust lines of defence against online attacks and disruptions. Of course, as threats are borderless, international cooperation and global engagement will be a key part.
The EU should work with third countries to make sure there are no safe havens for those who attack the Internet, and to prevent country-specific security requirements emerging that would raise barriers to entry for our industry.
W e must also protect vulnerable users. Making the Internet a better place for children is one of the priorities of the Digital Agenda.
The Safer Internet Programme has set up a Europe-wide network of Safer Internet Centres to raise awareness across the EU and beyond.
But the digital environment is evolving quickly – and so must we. Children in Europe now start going online as early as seven, and access the Internet from their mobiles and game consoles, as well as PCs.
In the light of these changes, the Commission will, in the coming months, present a European strategy to empower children to make the best and safest use of Internet.
The strategy will have clear objectives and will be implemented through a policy mix, including a significant component of self-regulation. To this end, I have called on a coalition of CEOs from the whole ICT Industry to step up their efforts in a number of areas, including reporting abuse, privacy and parental controls.
Making the internet a safer place is required to gain users' trust and confidence. Nowhere is this more imperative than for electronic transactions.
We believe that only an all encompassing pan-European framework for electronic identification, authentication and signature (PEFIAS) would bring the necessary coherence to secure electronic transactions and boost user confidence.
Therefore, in the second quarter of next year, I will present legal measures so citizens and businesses can use their eID to access online services; and a proposal to revise the eSignature Directive.
The re-use of public data also offers opportunities for growth. The value of the market for re-use of public data is currently estimated at some €30 billion; but the overall indirect gains may be as high as €140 billion.
The benefits of open data are more than just money. It can help citizens participate in society and political life, increase transparency and accountability, and improve effective, evidence-based policy making.
That is why we are proposing an ambitious and coherent EU Open Data Strategy.
In the near future, I will be proposing amendments to the Directive on re-use of public sector information, as well as updating the rules for re-use of the Commission's own data. Also, in 2012, we will be launching the Commission's own Open Data portal, to make our own data resources easily accessible and usable.
The ICT sector can also demonstrate strong green credentials, delivering growth which is sustainable. It can improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, delivering savings of around 15%. The "Energy Efficiency" initiative is the main contribution of ICT policy to the climate and energy targets of this strategy.
To this end, the radio spectrum policy programme looks at the possibility of making spectrum available for smart energy grids and smart metering systems.
The Commission is preparing to launch a public consultation, by the end of this year, to seek input on the expected spectrum requirements.
Depending on the public consultation, and subsequent impact assessment, I will decide whether we go ahead with a Communication towards the end of 2012.
Fundamental to our advances in ICT, increasing our competitiveness and industrial leadership, is the research behind it. Our proposal for the post-2013 EU Budget reflects our ambition to continue investing in Europe's future through support for research and innovation.
The new approach of integrating research and innovation within Horizon 2020 has been widely supported by stakeholders, as shown by the response to the Green Paper.
Horizon 2020 will set out three distinct, mutually reinforcing, high-level objectives: 1/ Tackling Societal Challenges; 2/ Industrial leadership and competitive frameworks; 3/ Excellence in the science base.
To create the maximum impact, we must combine Horizon 2020 funding with other sources. For example regional funding, the Cohesion Fund and EIB financing.
From our side, we must underline the importance of ICT as an enabling technology, unlocking advances in other areas. At the same time, we need to simplify access and lower administrative burdens, to attract the best researchers and the most innovative enterprises.
So, we intend to introduce a simple programme architecture, a single set of rules for participation, and simpler funding rules.
Horizon 2020 is also committed to enhancing the use of public-public partnerships with the Member States. This will, however, require stronger commitments from Member States in terms of financial commitments and in aligning national processes.
Naturally, we cannot ignore what is going on around us. These are certainly trying economic times for Europe. But this does not mean we cannot or should not act. On the contrary, we need to build a robust framework beyond the current economic fragility.
And there is light at the end of the tunnel. The ICT sector is one of the few that is providing much needed growth. And now we have an opportunity to provide fresh impetus. This is why I would like to talk to you about a very exciting new legislative proposal, the Connecting Europe Facility.
Our goal of "Every European Digital" is key to Europe's ability to innovate and grow. This means providing access to a high quality and affordable infrastructure wherever you are, whatever your skills, whatever your means. These factors are key to ensuring social and economic cohesion and supporting innovation and competitiveness in our economy.
To do this, Europe needs to invest heavily in new high speed internet infrastructure. But beyond the traditional telecoms providers, the Connecting Europe Facility calls on a much wider range of prospective investors including utilities, institutional investors, equipment manufacturers and public authorities.
In combination with other financial tools at EU, national and local level, this facility will increase our chances to reach the 2020 goals in high speed internet.
The digital part of CEF has two objectives:
first, supporting the deployment of high-speed broadband; and
secondly, getting essential public and networked services on-line. The aim is to connect up services such as eGovernment, eHealth, or business registers online. Currently, these services stop at the border. We want to make them accessible across the EU, to everyone.
We propose to invest €9 billion of Union funds in these crucial digital infrastructures. We expect that at least €7 billion from the CEF will be leveraged through new financial instruments to support investment of more than €50 billion and up to €100 billion in high-speed broadband infrastructure. This means about 45 million households or over 100 million citizens and consumers connected to high-speed broadband as a result of EU intervention. The remainder of the money will support the European public and networked service infrastructures.
I appreciate that it will be a challenge to convince Member States and regional authorities of the need for spending in ICT. I am not blind to the many competing priorities. However, in an otherwise sluggish economy, ICT promises a good return on investment. The benefits which can be leveraged from the feed capital in infrastructure investment are tenfold.
So I call on you to bring this positive message back to your home countries, and help put Europe on a path to recovery.
Finally, next year, we are planning to take stock of the Digital Agenda through a broad dialogue with stakeholders. We are intensifying efforts to move ahead with the Digital Single Market. We will continue to address areas in which fragmented national policies require a coordinated EU response, and evaluate what completed actions are ripe for further development.
The Digital Assembly 2012 will also feed into this mid-term review. I am happy to hear that ITRE has agreed to support us in organising the Digital Assembly in the Parliament's premises.
I would therefore like to end on a challenge. Can you come up with a handful of digital success stories for the next Digital Assembly, drawing on what is happening in your constituencies? I would like to showcase these in order to inspire others. In this way, we could establish a closer connection with citizens and illustrate with concrete examples how the Digital Agenda is changing the everyday lives of Europeans.