Ladies and Gentlemen,

  • I would like to thank the Latvian Presidency and in particular Mr. Kaspars Gerhards, Minister of Environmental Protection and Regional Development of Latvia, for organising this event.
  • It is for sure the highlight of the Presidency programme and reflects well the importance given by economy, society and politics to drive the digital development of Europe.
  • I would also like to thank all of you for your active participation. Yesterday and this morning, you talked about a number of topics that are essential for the completion of the Digital Single Market and the future of Europe. Let me give you my views on some issues, which are of great importance to me.
  • The Digital Single Market needs to be enabled by unconstrained connectivity for everyone and everything, everywhere. More than ever, Europe needs adequate connectivity. This is true for each and every citizen. And this is also true for industry, for businesses, whatever their size, for schools, research and innovation centres, for public services across Europe.
  • It is the availability and the use of high-quality connectivity that will enable and ultimately determine the success of the Digital Single Market.
  • This is why we constantly monitor the development of economic indicators and the regulatory environment that may influence incentives and market conditions across Europe and determine, whether Europe is an attractive place to live, work and invest in.
  • We have just released our latest annual Digital Agenda Scoreboard, where we measure how much progress Europe has been making over the last five years in the digital sphere. There is no doubt that we are making progress, on all fronts. In particular, ever more citizens are going online, to do shopping, administrative procedures and much more.
  • For broadband, the scoreboard shows considerable progress. Next Generation Access (NGA) fixed-line technologies capable of providing at least 30 Mbps (Megabit per second) were available to 68% of EU households last year, compared with 62% a year before.
  • But it also shows that much remains to be done to catch up with the speed of the global digital economy. For instance at the end of last year only 6% of European homes had a subscription of above 100 Mbps services.
  • And overall, be it in terms of fixed or mobile connectivity, there are very important differences between and within Member States as far as broadband coverage and take-up are concerned.
  • In addition, connectivity needs are continuously increasing, driven today primarily by video. The Internet of Things, the data economy, the abundance of content and increasingly cheaper mobile devices are expected to accelerate this trend. They render the availability of bandwidth and the ease of upgrading networks a key enabler for the vibrant digital economy and society.
  • Our investment decisions of today will determine the quality of networks well beyond 2020. We need to better understand the Internet functionalities which are necessary for our digital future. We also need to reflect what fixed and mobile connectivity speed and quality features will be necessary if the digital single market is to drive growth well into the decade beyond 2020.
  • We need a cross-sector, cross-generational debate on future-oriented connectivity for Europe. We will launch a public consultation for all stakeholders, but in particular for users and developers of future applications on this topic in order to anticipate as best we can in all our policy processes their needs a decade or more from now.
  • We also need extra and quick investment efforts by the industry, by public authorities and by investors.
  • Building the network takes time and is extremely expensive. We cannot afford to get it wrong as starting again is not an option.
  • We need to take the right investment decisions to ensure the adequate Internet speed and quality for the next decades. These decisions have to be taken quickly, including if we want to make the best use of the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI).
  • Indeed, three weeks ago, after intensive and efficient discussions, the Council and the European Parliament have reached an agreement on the Regulation concerning EFSI.
  • Now, it is time to focus on the core work, implementing this ambitious vision, which offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to foster growth, jobs and investments across Europe.
  • For the digital sector, this investment plan is an opportunity to support innovative projects on a large scale, which, in Europe have received less political support than in other parts of the world. Attracting global financing into innovation and networks of the future is a key to our future.
  • The range of projects that can be financed under EFSI is very wide, and therefore it will allow any type of business models, even those that may be disruptive , to be eligible. For example, we are already discussing with the European Investment Bank projects of rural broadband networks, cloud services and computing, that may be considered for financing under EFSI.
  • This opportunity should not be missed. Now we have the tools in place to offer flexible financing solutions for digital projects in any country of the European Union, I encourage these projects come forward. We need to make sure digital is set as a priority in all our countries.
  • In a very near future, high speed data networks will be as important as roads and electricity lines. Broadband connectivity is already one of the basic needs of any citizen of Europe. Europe's excellence in computer science and microelectronics need to be exploited and expanded in a competitive global environment.
  • For us, who are involved in this sector in our day-to-day activities, the fantastic added value of the digital sector, as well as its potential for growth and jobs, are obvious. Nevertheless, we are still facing a lot of resistance from public and private stakeholders to invest in this sector. Technology risk and complex regulation are some of the reasons often brought to our attention as hurdles to investment.
  • I call for your support to emphasize the amazing opportunities the digital sector can offer to our societies and our economies. Risk and challenges associated with them should not be ignored but we can address them, and in some cases reduce them.
  • EFSI is an opportunity for the digital sector in Europe, but it will not achieve its goal unless private and public players in the sector work together on building up a pipeline of digital projects.
  • 5G is another key aspect when we speak about Internet connectivity. It should indeed be a major step towards the implementation of an Internet of Things, with very efficient support, in terms of cost and energy efficiency, for connected objects of all kinds. It will provide specific connectivity solutions to different vertical sectors like automotive, health, energy, or broadcast.
  • The EU strongly supports the development of 5G as the future key digital infrastructure. This is why we have launched a Public Private Partnership (5G PPP) under Horizon 2020, with a EUR 700 million support by the European Commission.
  • Last March, I was at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to support the announcement by the industry of a common vision for 5G in Europe. This is a very much needed step towards the elaboration of a 5G global vision by the end of this year, with our international partners.
  • Europe should lead the race, as the global leader in network technology supply. We already have some research results that are world class. Europe should drive the 5G standardisation process and positively contribute to the spectrum debates. I call upon global industry to make every effort to come up with one single standard and with globally harmonised frequency bands.
  • Our ambition is also to see the emergence of partnerships between European actors from each vertical industry and telecom service providers to provide our society with new services made possible by connected cars, connected energy networks, connected health devices, remote surgery, industrial automation, etc. It is essential that actors from vertical industries work together with telecom and ICT actors to participate from the early phase in the design such partnerships.
  • Let me now speak about the role of ICT to maintain and increase our economic competitiveness.
  • To underpin the digitalisation of industry, innovation and excellence in science, we do need a strong ICT sector based on essential e-infrastructures such as pan-European research networks, data infrastructures and distributed computing. In coordination with the Member states, the Commission aims at supporting such e-Infrastructures.
  • Investing in state-of-the-art, open and interoperable platforms and innovation e-infrastructures is essential so that business can rely and use them to make products, processes or services ready for the digital age.
  • Available and easy-to-use High Performance Computing resources is a priority for the industry's competitiveness – in particular for SMEs – and for better adaptation to market demands, especially in terms of innovation and fast renewal of their product and service offerings. This is one of the main objectives of Industry 4.0.
  • The European Commission is starting a process of involvement of stakeholders to explore the opportunities offered by the European Fund for Strategic Investment, where High Performance Computing is a key infrastructural component.
  • Beyond the ICT sector per se, we also need to digitise our industry broadly speaking across Europe. Future growth and jobs depend on mastering the digitalisation of industry at large.
  • In mid-April, at the industrial trade fair in Hannover, I announced a set of measures to attract investments in digitising our industry all across Europe.
  • I proposed actions in four key areas to be elaborated with the help of Member States and industry:
    • First, we need to facilitate access to digital technologies for any industry, especially SMEs, wherever it is located in Europe and in any sector.
    • Second, leadership in platforms for digital industry. The objective is to ensure the availability of state-of-the-art open and interoperable platforms that any business can use to make its products, processes or services ready for the digital age.
    • Third, preparing our workforce to benefit from the digital transformation. There is a clear need for promoting digital skills at all levels, for re-skilling, and for lifelong learning across Europe and its regions. Of course, this is the competence of Member States, but given the dimension and urgency of the challenge, I believe we need a concerted effort to be able to progress more rapidly.
    • Fourth, smart regulation for smart industry. New digital business models are challenging existing regulatory systems worldwide, requiring a new way of policy-making. We need to adapt our regulatory and legal frameworks to digital innovations.
  • Our ambition should now be to significantly increase these efforts and join forces to create critical mass and attract private investment.
  • Our challenge is to ensure urgently that all industrial sectors make the best use of new technologies and manage their digital transformation. National and regional initiatives on digitising industry aim at the same objective. However, there is a considerable risk that these initiatives remain below the scale needed and do not succeed in creating critical mass and attract private investment.
  • We have therefore organised a roundtable of national initiatives that will take place in Brussels on 30 June. High-level representatives have been invited with the objective to explore how to step up our efforts and join forces. We will take stock of the individual initiatives and identify which EU actions would be needed to significantly increase our overall impact.
  • Larger corporations could more actively involve digital start-ups to anticipate potential disruption and enable innovation, in order to improve their performance, increase competitiveness, acquire new technologies and know-how.
  • Last, let me briefly speak about two forthcoming legislative proposals that will impact on the European media and content landscape, where the EU needs to keep up and, if necessary, adapt.
  • The EU Digital Single Market strategy announces "A media framework for the 21st century". As a first step, the Commission is assessing the functioning of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) in the context of a so-called REFIT (regulatory fitness) evaluation. A revision of the Directive is foreseen in 2016.
  • It is clear that businesses should be empowered to innovate and compete in the digital world and EU's creativity and rich cultural diversity should be promoted just as much as EU values and consumer protection.
  • It is also clear that the country of origin principle has ensured unhindered cross-border transmission of audiovisual media services within Europe.
  • What are then the main subjects under review? The AVMSD covers television broadcasts and on-demand audiovisual media services, but does not apply to content hosted by online video-sharing platforms and intermediaries. It also applies a core set of "societal values" rules to all audiovisual media services and provides lighter touch regulation to on-demand services where the users decide on the content and the time of viewing.
  • We will look closely at whether the current system is working well and, if not, propose solutions for the future. We will focus on simplification of the rules, particularly in the field of advertising and on protection of minors, the promotion of European works and freedom of information.
  • As part of REFIT, the Commission will launch a public consultation in the coming weeks. You are all encouraged to contribute.
  • The DSM Strategy also sets out our objectives in the area of copyright. They concern both the way rights are exercised in the internal market and certain exceptions to those rights.
  • Portability and consumer cross-border access to content services are important elements in the on-going work on copyright, as they are key enablers of the Digital Single Market. Different interests at stake and the specificities of different sectors are being considered in this context, notably as regards sports, films and television.
  • Our ambition is to create more opportunities for the citizen to enjoy Europe's cultural diversity without destroying the underlying business value chains. We will not be imposing pan-European licences on the market players.
  • Moreover, it would be important to have harmonised copyright exceptions regarding certain activities of libraries, research and education.
  • The Commission is also assessing the functioning of content distribution in the digital environment and whether it ensures adequate reward for those who create and invest in creativity. We will be looking in particular at the role of internet intermediaries when they distribute copyright protected content.
  • We aim at the adoption of a formal copyright proposal before the end of 2015.
  • Ladies and gentlemen,
  • I hope that together we can smoothly move forward on all these important files.
  • I very much look forward to hearing more about the outcome of your discussions during these two days of Digital Assembly, about your ideas and suggestions, about your expectations, about how we can together make the European economy and society more digital.
  • Thank you for your attention.