Friday, 25 December 2009

EU Telecommunications Council on post i2010 strategy: Towards a new digital agenda

From Santa Claus to the Magi, the European Union’s new digital strategy continues to take shape with the aim to bestow its gifts on the good children of Europe in the years to come.

Chaired by Sweden’s minister for communications, Åsa Torstensson, the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council configuration (TTE) arrived at conclusions regarding the post i2010 strategy at the 2987th Council meeting (17 to 18 December 2009; document 17456/09; page 21):


Post - i2010 strategy - Council conclusions

The Council held a policy debate on the future of the i2010 strategy, in order to give guidance to the Commission in drawing up a new digital agenda.

In particular, ministers set out their views regarding the priorities for a post-i2010 strategy which will aim to ensure growth, job creation and a sustainable EU, and ways to get citizens more involved in policy-making through the Internet and other social media. This new agenda is to be proposed by the new Commission in spring 2010 and debated under the Spanish presidency.

The Council adopted conclusions which list items that should be addressed in the new digital agenda for Europe (17107/09).

The conclusions underline inter alia:

• the importance of fostering the open, decentralised and dynamic nature of the Internet, promoting its further expansion,

• the importance of developing electronic identification arrangements that guarantee data protection and respect citizens’ privacy,

• accessibility for everyone is key to achieving an inclusive, empowering, knowledge-based society.

Summary and outline

The TTE Council’s conclusions refer to the document "Post-i2010 Strategy" - towards an open, green and competitive knowledge society - Adoption of Council conclusions (17107/09; 16 pages), which contains a brief summary of the preparatory work and the annexed conclusions on the EU’s coming digital agenda, including numerous documentary references.

The central message is that the scope of ICT policy will need to expand from enabling the information society towards maximising the way in which ICT (information and communications technology) contributes to the EU’s progress towards an open, green and competitive knowledge society.

Information and communications technologies are fundamental to the running of EU economies across all sectors, but significant barriers to implementing an ICT-based knowledge society and to establishing a well functioning internal market remain and need to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

The conclusions presented more detailed principles with regard to:

• Broadband and the Internet
• Privacy, resiliency, security and trust
• Accessibility empowerment and inclusion

The TTE Council then laid special emphasis on:

• Boosting research and development, innovation and service creation (increasing the role of small and medium-sized companies; towards a well functioning European digital single market; content creation and re-use of public sector information)
• A globally competitive EU (including international development and Internet governance)
• Environmental sustainability (Green ICT, policy and research agenda; low energy use, cutting carbon emissions, use of public procurement)
• E-government (seamless e-Government services reinforcing mobility; open and interoperable standards)
• Benchmarking and evaluation (benchmarking frameworks)

The Telecoms ministers then invited the Commission to develop a New Digital Agenda for Europe, including high-speed broadband deployment, plans for innovation and digital development for increased competitiveness, as well as elimination of regulatory obstacles to cross-border on-line purchases.

The Council asked the Commission to report on its various consultations.

The Council invited the member states to reach 100% broadband by 2013 and to develop strategies for next generation networks (NGN). Efforts are needed for high speed mobile and wireless services; implementation of the revised regulatory framework for electronic communications, networks and services; the contribution of ICT to structural reforms for growth and jobs; reducing disparities in information society developments across Europe; the uptake of ICT by SMEs; ICT for transition to energy-efficient and low-carbon economies.

The Council then added wishes for joint action between the member states and the Commission, as well as invitations for contributions by stakeholders.

From Santa Claus to the Magi

The Council’s wish list was delivered by the Swedish presidency in time for Santa Claus, but work will continue after Los Reyes Magos (the Three Kings; the Magi; Epihany) during the Spanish presidency of the Council of the European Union, leading towards the spring European Council meeting, dedicated to economic reform issues on 25 March 2010.

The new digital agenda is an essential part of the overall economic reform strategy of the European Union: EU 2020.

Still, the real dividends will come only through dedicated work during the next five years, requiring efforts by the Commission ─ Neelie Kroes, other Commissioners and their services ─ the member states (Council) and the European Parliament, as well as researchers, businesses, citizens and consumers all over Europe.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Get to know the growing EU blogosphere Margot Wallström wrote about, conveniently aggregated by multilingual, our common “village well” for fact, opinion and gossip on European affairs.