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European Commission - Speech - [Check Against Delivery]

Opening speech by Vice-President Andrus Ansip at the Digital Day 2019

Brussels, 9 April 2019

Ministers, fellow Commissioners, ladies and gentlemen

I am happy to see you all here for the third Digital Day – thank you for coming.

The Digital Single Market has come a long way since we held the first of these unique events in Rome two years ago.

They have been a springboard in several ways:

  • for the Digital Single Market to progress and take shape;
  • for Europe to speed up digitalisation in general;
  • for each country to bring together its resources, talents, initiatives and ideas.

Digital Days made it possible for Europe to work more closely together on supercomputing, digital industry, connected and automated driving: the commitments made at the first Digital Day in 2017.

Last year, we focused on Artificial Intelligence, blockchain, eHealth and innovation.

These are all areas where the Digital Single Market can have a direct impact on people's futures, focusing on how we can make the most of new technologies.

This year, we will look at how to advance the digitisation of cultural heritage, agriculture and rural areas, and how best to get more women into the digital sector. And AI, of course – to which I will return shortly.

None of what we have achieved happened overnight, of course.

It took time to prepare the ground.

I think it is worth reflecting back on what we faced back in late 2014 – and how far the Digital Single Market has progressed since then.

So much has changed that it is easy to forget how things used to be.

  • relentless daily frustrations for people and businesses, especially smaller ones;
  • limited competitiveness for EU industry;
  • a string of legal, technical and administrative barriers;
  • major country differences in connections and coverage, especially in rural areas.These are another factor behind poor digital access to goods and services.

This situation was affecting everyone in Europe, socially and economically. There were too many barriers preventing people from making the most of digital opportunities and innovation, holding Europe back competitively.

So we had to act – intelligently and quickly.

We have now secured EU agreement for 28 out of the 30 laws proposed to build a functioning digital economy and society.

Slowly but surely, the Digital Single Market is turning into reality.

And not just on paper. People already feel the difference in their daily lives.

The end of roaming surcharges. The end of unjustified geo-blocking.

New rules to stimulate competition and investment in 5G networks.

Improved online access in rural areas.

A law that allows people who have signed up to online services in one EU country – for books, music, games, films, drama, sport – to use those services when they travel to another.

Net neutrality rules to give Europeans the right to access content of their choice online: no interference or discrimination, no blocking or throttling.

Stronger cybersecurity, better protection against online threats.

Just in December, the EU reached agreement on the Cybersecurity Act that creates a framework for certifying ICT products, processes and services that will be valid throughout the EU.

This is the EU's first internal market law that takes up the challenge of boosting security of connected products, IoT devices as well as critical infrastructure.

Stronger protection of data, both personal and commercial.

With the GDPR, Europe now has the strongest and most modern data protection rules in the world, and they are becoming a global standard.

A law to ensure free flow of data between EU countries, getting rid of unnecessary data lock-ins inside national territory.

Another law to increase use and availability of public data.

A scheme that pools national and EU resources to build world-class supercomputing and data infrastructure.

These are just a few examples in a long list of successes.

In all, the Digital Single Market has created 35 new digital rights and freedoms as a new legal environment has fallen into place.

It will allow us to make the most of data, the driving force for our digital future.

This brings me to one of the main reasons we are here today, for the third Digital Day.

This morning's session is devoted to AI, a priority for me as well as for the European Commission.

An opportunity that Europe should grasp firmly and quickly.

What the Digital Single Market has achieved regarding data has laid the groundwork for our work to develop a European strategy for human-centric AI.

We will examine the progress made since last year's declaration on AI.

This was a basis for our European strategy and a Coordinated Action Plan with all EU countries. Most are now preparing their AI strategy or already have one. All will have it in place by mid-2019.

This is how we can compete and reach €20 billion of public and private investments up to 2020, and more than €20 billion per year over the next decade.

Along with data and investment, trust is also vital for the successful development of AI.

The Commission presented its approach yesterday, building on ethics guidelines prepared by the European expert group who will shortly give you more details about their work.

Ladies and gentlemen

As we speak, a strong and functioning Digital Single Market is under construction, helping Europe's people and businesses to get the most and best from the digital age.

Each Digital Day also helps to make that happen: in policies and laws, in our economy and society, in the lives of all Europeans. Thank you again for coming to make your contribution to Europe's digital future.

SPEECH/19/2068

Press contacts:

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