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European Commission

Neelie Kroes

Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda

Your Europe, Your Future

'Your Europe, Your Say 2013' European Economic and Social Committee youngsters conference/ Brussels

18 April 2013

To add your comment to this speech, see the social version of the speech here

Welcome all of you to Brussels; many of you have travelled far. It's great to see you all.

The world is changing in so many ways. Often if you look at the news, you will see many negative things – like constant stories about the economy.

But remember the good news too. Like new technology: that gives us new opportunities, new ideas, and new jobs.

That's the why I've launched the Digital Futures project. A chance to journey in time, to capture your creativity and aspirations. In tomorrow's brainstorming, you'll imagine the world in 2030. What will the news be? What will Europe, and the world, look like? How will we get there? Will your life be better? I hope you'll give us your answers, considered and creative.

Because there are so many opportunities out there. And I want Europe to support them - and improve your lives. I hope you want that too.

You've probably all got ideas about Europe and its future. The continent you live in is an amazing place, there is so much you can get out of it. You can easily explore what Europe has to offer. Maybe you've already thought about doing an Erasmus year studying abroad, going to work in another country, or just travelling for fun. And maybe you've thought about what might make that easier, more fulfilling, or more rewarding.

For me, Europe is a place where we find unity in diversity. Where we integrate, not to collapse all our cultures into one, but to understand and celebrate our differences. Our union, economic and political, can ensure you have a job to go to – when previous generations just had a war to fight in. We can build a continent that's connected and creative; where people aren't afraid to challenge, innovate, and lead the world.

That's my vision of Europe. But how do you make it a reality? How do we ensure it's good news in 2030? And that you have a better life? That's a different question.

Over the coming days, you have lots of ideas in front of you – lots of things the EU could be doing.

Should we help people get their first job, or start their first business?

Should we extend Erasmus - so apprentices, jobseekers, and younger school students can benefit from a year abroad too?

Should we have a single rate for internet access across Europe, to stay connected on-the-move, without roaming charges?

And that's where I want your ideas. You are the future of Europe. So tell us how you – and I - can make that future better.

In my current job I work a lot with technology. With the people who make it. With the businesses who innovate with it. And with the people, young and old, who enjoy their creations.

There are so many good ideas and opportunities. You must know this better than me – you've grown up with new digital devices.

There are many ways we could be preparing for that future, many ways we could be helping you. But how?

Is it by giving you the right digital skills, starting in the classroom? A new study says half of secondary schoolchildren use computers in their lessons less than once a week; one in five hardly ever at all. Could we do better?

Or is it about giving you the tools to stay safe online? So your parents can trust you go online, and so you know what to do if you run into trouble? And in fact I'm working with some of the big companies – from Apple to Facebook – about how we can do that, like through simple age ratings and panic buttons.

Or is it by spreading the word about the jobs on offer in information and communications technology? Because ICT careers can be creative, rewarding and fun. And Europe definitely needs more people with those skills – men and women. I hope some of you are thinking about that for study or work.

Or is it something else we need? Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook recently said the USA needed a better, more liberal immigration policy. Because in today's world, the best asset, the most valuable commodity, isn't oil or steel – it's your brain, and the skills to use it. And in the long run, he reckons, helping people go where they are needed will create more jobs. What about Europe?

Thanks to ICT, our world is always changing: constantly, amazingly, unpredictably. That change doesn't happen by itself. It always needs new ideas and inspirations. It needs a culture where people take risks, try something new, and innovate.

So ask me, what will the future look like? And I can't tell you: I don't know. But one thing is certain: the world has changed so much in my lifetime; it will change so much in yours. But the fact is, it isn't decided yet what those changes will be. It can be affected by the decisions we take and the ideas we find – you, me, all of us.

So that's where I need your help. People like me in the Commission have a lot of people advising us. From businesses, governments, here in the Economic and Social Committee, and so on.

But the advice I welcome the most is from young people. "Digital natives"; at home every day with new technology. You are the generation who can change things. In a world transformed by technology, you are the ones who can create and reform.

That's why I have a special group of young people advising me – people working in digital jobs.

I call that group my young advisers – and they're younger than I am. But in fact most of them are older than you — so maybe you can be my group of "even younger advisers"!

I know you'll have some valuable ideas: and I'm going to listen to what you say. I'm really sorry I can't be there tomorrow – but I'll make sure I find out what you said. All the ideas you come up with will go into Futurium, our online laboratory. And I'm going to be around for another half hour right now – I hope I can speak to as many of you as possible in that time.

So make sure you speak up. You are the future: and you have an important mission in this few days. So come up with some good ideas – I want to hear them!

Thank you.

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