Ladies and gentlemen
I am pleased to see so many of you here representing different areas and interests of Europe's digital community.
Wide inclusion is what the Digital Single Market is all about.
I hear many people complaining that Europe has fallen behind in ICT, that we have 'missed the boat' and will struggle to catch up with other countries.
I strongly disagree with this. My view is much more positive.
We are already starting from a great position. Europe is home to an amazing amount of diversity, ideas, talent and creativity. It is full of entrepreneurship.
In Europe, we have everything to make the most and best of transformative technologies, big data, cloud computing, the internet of things.
None of this happens on its own. The basis for our future success and progress in digital is a functioning single market where people enjoy full rights and where there is no discrimination.
As you know, I am charged with the task of building a Digital Single Market. This project will mean that Europe will be valued for its future - not its past.
When we discuss Europe's new digital priorities today, we will not only be talking about the next five years – but way beyond. Building a Digital Single Market means building the long-lasting foundation for our digital future.
These are my ideals:
- I want no discrimination based on nationality or unjustified geo-blocking;
- I want a single contract law for online transactions to provide clear and safe rules for buyers and sellers;
- I want a single data protection regime and a clear system for data access;
- there should be a copyright and licensing regime to benefit creators, publishers and consumers alike;
- simple rules should exist for small and online businesses, to allow them to start operating across the EU with just "one click";
- we need a proper single market in telecoms, at affordable prices and no roaming fees;
- I want full portability of users' data over platforms and systems across the EU, and full interoperability of public and private e-services.
It is already quite a long list of challenges to tackle. I am under no illusions. Nobody should be. This will be difficult to achieve.
There will be vested interests fighting us all the way. We will be moving one step at a time.
In this, I would value your support in the run-up to May, when we will present a long-term strategy for building the Digital Single Market.
Ladies and gentlemen
You may have heard me complain before about problems with access to content across borders – online blocking. This is one of many barriers that needs to be removed so that everyone can enjoy the best Europe has to offer online. It is a serious and common barrier, as well as extremely frustrating.
Far too often, consumers find themselves redirected to a national website, or blocked. I know this from my own experience. You probably do as well.
Take the BBC website, which spells out the problem clearly: "because of rights agreements, you can only download or stream BBC iPlayer TV programmes while you’re inside the UK."
In the offline world, this would be called discrimination. In the online world, it happens every day.
I want to pay – but I am not allowed to. I lose out, they lose out.
How can this be a good thing? We put up with the situation because there is not much alternative.
Now it is time to do something about it.
This should not happen in the 21st century. For me, this is not just a market issue. It is a matter of rights: the rights which we enshrined into treaties a long time ago and which every European should enjoy.
There should be no exceptions. Everyone should be treated the same.
This is a key principle that underpins everything we want to achieve.
I mention blocking because it is such a clear example of a barrier that must be removed before we can create a connected Digital Single Market.
There are many others, such as the high cost of delivering parcels between EU countries and the different national rules around the EU for consumer rights.
Both of these are holding back the growth of cross-border online sales.
Along with removing barriers, we have to build, improve and connect.
These are the objectives of the list of my 'digital wishes' I mentioned earlier.
- build trust and confidence so people are confident about using the internet and online services; confidence about online rights as a means to boost cross-border e-commerce. Concretely: digital contract law, data protection, e-privacy. In the single market, there can be no borders for data. Provided that it is protected, data should flow freely.
- we should improve technical interoperability and standards across the EU. This will help to improve access to networks between countries, make public e-services interoperable and enhance cross-border access to media content. It will also boost other sectors like transport and health, where there are many emerging innovations: self-driving cars, e-prescriptions and tele-medicines.
- and we should connect everyone and everywhere: by investing in modern and joined-up broadband infrastructure so that people in the remotest areas can also enjoy high-speed internet access. That means reforming Europe's telecom rules, as well as stimulating investment in telecoms infrastructure.
Given that the clock is ticking, I would like to conclude by encouraging everyone to participate as widely as possible in helping us draw up a strategy for Europe's digital future.
That is the main objective of this conference: to gather views and suggestions.
We have already received a lot of ideas and support, from the European Parliament and also from EU Member States producing their own papers and views. It is all interesting and useful input.
I also want to hear what you have to say – not only today, but also in the weeks ahead. What kinds of problems do you face when you try to go digital?
You can now share your experiences and views on a dedicated website, the Digital4EU platform, created for gathering views to feed into the final strategy.
We started yesterday with the 'Ask Ansip' twitter chat. In the space of one hour, I received a lot of feedback about the kinds of obstacles that people face when they try to do business cross-border or shop online.
Ladies and gentlemen
I am a pragmatic and down-to-earth person. Content and results are what interest me. I believe that we should only set out what is realistic, what is achievable and what can be easily understood.
This is about altering the status quo. It is why our strategy will be based around a set of core proposals that are designed to trigger real change and bring maximum benefit for all Europeans.
Let me be very clear: they will not solve all our problems in one go, and certainly not overnight. This is going to be long and difficult.
First, these initiatives need to be properly carried out, and in full, throughout Europe. Naturally, that will take time.
But I can assure you that from the day the Commission presents its strategy in May, we will be working flat out to produce results that people can see and feel.
I can also promise you that these results will be worth the effort.
Thank you again for coming to take part in today's event.
I know that I can rely on your help and support so that, together, we make this vision a digital reality.