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EU Digital Summit in Tallinn

Advancing Europe with digitalisation

"It was an inspiring day which also made it quite clear to us that we are far from being world leaders already," said Chancellor Angela Merkel, summing up the Tallinn Digital Summit. There is a very urgent need to develop the Digital Single Market as swiftly as possible, she said. The summit was an Estonian initiative.

Tallinn Digital Summit The heads of state and government discussed Europe's digital future, e-government and cyber security Foto: Bundesregierung/Kugler

There is a very urgent need to develop the Digital Single Market as swiftly as possible, stressed Chancellor Angela Merkel in a statement at the close of the meeting. "In very many fields we in Europe are not world leaders. It is important for all member states to have compatible systems in the new internet generation. If the data flow is the fifth freedom, this must be guaranteed and standardised systems are needed."

Important issues discussed in Tallinn

How can the EU be better equipped to deal with the digitalised world? How can cyber security be enhanced – and thus society’s trust in digitalisation? How can governments and authorities be made fit for the digital era? What form will a digital economy and a digital society take by 2025, in order to secure jobs and prosperity? These were the questions discussed by the heads of state and government in Tallinn, Estonia’s capital city. The Digital Summit was an Estonian initiative. Estonia currently holds the EU Presidency and is a trailblazer in the field of digitalisation within Europe.

Other topics discussed included artificial intelligence, the changing working world, and the social adjustments this entails, education from the school to the working world in a digitalised world, and very importantly the question of taxing the internet sector. The Chancellor stressed in her statement that, "We are currently in a phase of progressing common European ground, and member states are demonstrating that they are very willing to do so."

How can this progress be achieved?

In the run-up to the summit, Germany, Spain, France and Italy made a joint proposal on digitalisation in Europe.

The German government believes that a three-pronged strategy is needed, if the European Union is to make swift and concrete progress on shaping digitalisation:

  1. A legal framework is needed, that puts in place a level playing field for all actors in the European digital sector. The aim is for the digital sector to be taxed in Europe for what is offered on the European market. Transparency is to be achieved for digital platforms and agreement reached on a codex, or legal framework for electronic communication services.

  2. All advantages of digital technologies must be used, including the high-performance networks, 5G and fibre optics. This will lay the necessary foundations for the digital economy, including telemedicine and automated driving. The German government continues to advocate establishing European platforms, and digitalising industry, the services sector and the public administration. It is also essential to invest in human capital and in financing companies after the start-up phase.

  3. The people of Europe, companies and governments must be able to exercise their rights and be protected so as to generate trust in the digital world and bridge the "digital gap". This should take the form of the free flow of data, appropriate copyright protection, and cyber security.

Making economies and societies more European in the digital era

Digital economy and e-commerce do not stop at national borders. This is what makes it necessary to put in place a European Digital Single market. Digital innovation can thus be better developed and innovations can become better established. At the same time security, consumer and data privacy standards can be standardised across Europe.

A common European digital market serving more than 500 million people will make for better international competitiveness. And this is the guarantor of our prosperity in a global, digitalised world.

Why is cyber security so important?

Cyber security is an indispensable part of a common European Digital Single Market. Cyber security has to do with the protection of electronic data, and directly affects everybody in Germany and in the EU. Cyber security aims to prevent hostile states and hackers from accessing our data. Even today half of all European companies are affected by cyber attacks.

In many areas, the Internet plays a vey major part in our life, opening up new opportunities; in commerce, travel, communications, culture and interaction between citizens and state institutions.

To create trust in digital society, the protection and the security of all people and all companies must thus be guaranteed. This applies to the use of the Internet, as it does to online banking, e-mails and other online activities. This presupposes a robust legal framework plan for electronic data.

What does e-government have to do with me?

Technical progress, in particular internet-driven progress, makes possible entirely new communication and interaction channels. This is true not least of communication between the people and authorities. The advantages are simplified, swifter and often automated processes, greater transparency and less red tape – when it comes to applying for an ID card or a birth certificate or answering a query.

What else happened in Tallinn?

At the close of the Digital Summit, the Chancellor spoke about reforms in the EU. She signalled "broad willingness and interest in embracing a reform process for the European Union and also stepping up the intensity of cooperation". Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, intends to propose to the European Council in October, the sequence and form of this process.

On Thursday evening (28 September) Angela Merkel flew to Tallinn, where she attended an informal dinner for the heads of state and government, hosted by Estonia’s Prime Minister Jüri Ratas and chaired by Donald Tusk, European Council President.

The focus was on current European policy issues although there was no formal agenda. Before dinner, the Chancellor met French President Emmanuel Macron for bilateral talks.

On her arrival in Tallinn, the Chancellor "very much" welcomed the recent speeches on Europe given by French President Emmanuel Macron and Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission. They are both important building blocks on the way to further developing the EU and the euro zone, said Angela Merkel.

The Chancellor said that there is a "high level of agreement between Germany and France" but added, "We still need to discuss the details." "I see a sound basis for more intensive work between Germany and France, in the French President’s speech. I am absolutely convinced that Europe cannot afford to stand still, but that it must develop in future."

Freitag, 29. September 2017