I stand before you today as the Commissioner Designate for Information Society, Audiovisual Policy and the Media Economy - in other words, as the Commissioner for innovation, inclusion and creativity. These three concepts are interdependent and enrich one another, which is why this new portfolio has been created. It combines the economic dynamism of rapidly expanding sectors, with the potential to create many new jobs, and improves the quality of life of citizens. It also gives a new impetus to creativity and cultural diversity.
Innovation is the essential driving force for competitiveness. It is essential to give the Lisbon Strategy a new boost.
The new technologies sector is the one most likely to stimulate growth in Europe, which has been in the doldrums recently. We know that greater use of information technologies boosts productivity. 40% of the increase in productivity in Europe since the second half of the 1990s has been due to the use of ICTs. In the USA, where ICTs are used more and have been for longer, this figure is as high as 60%.
The ICT sector, one of the most important in the European economy (8% of GNP), is a real motor of growth. Growth and competitiveness stimulate job creation – sustainable jobs with a high added value. Over the last five years, 60% of new jobs created have been high-skilled. The rise in employment in the ‘high-knowledge’ sectors has been three times faster than the average growth in employment for all sectors.
For this growth to really take off, a new impetus is vital. Europe invests less than its competitors in technology and is lagging far behind when it comes to production, services and the use of ICTs. Closing the gap calls for concerted action by the European institutions, the Member States and the private sector. It is up to the Commission, and therefore the Commissioner, to give the necessary lead, to galvanise energies and to work towards common objectives. The Member States and the private sector should in turn define strategies to contribute to achieving these objectives. Various activities are already planned for the short term. Firstly, updating the e-Europe 2005 Action Plan supported by the European Parliament. Its aim is to use ICTs to develop future-orientated public services and to create a dynamic environment for e-commerce.
Together with you, I will be working on defining a new ambition for e-Europe, with a view to giving more Community added value to this field. I intend to present specific proposals for e-Europe 2010 by early 2005.
I will also be paying particular attention to the regulatory framework for telecommunications. Our aim is to stimulate competition between operators in order to improve the services offered to citizens. My priority is to ensure that this framework is correctly implemented in all the Member States.
It is clear that this framework must keep pace with technological and economic developments. For this reason, a review is planned for 2006, whilst the Universal Service Directive is already due to be reviewed in 2005.
Research into ICTs accounts for 22% of the 6th Research and Development Framework Programme. In concrete terms, since 2003, a total of €1.7 billion has been awarded to 450 projects.
I fully support the objective set in Barcelona by the Heads of State and Government to reinforce research and thereby increase research spending to 3% of GNP by 2010. The current Commission’s ambitious financial perspectives are also in line with this.
Funding is important, but content is too. Is our research effective and relevant? In cooperation with my colleague in charge of Research and in the framework of the preparation of the 7th Framework Programme, I would like to launch a cost-benefit analysis and take measures to ensure that the benefits of our technological research become more visible for citizens.
An example: you are aware that the GSM standard which is used by 1 out of every 6 people in the world was invented in the EU, but how many European citizens know that it was the result of research projects financed by the EU budget?
President Designate Barroso has asked me to be one of the Commissioners working on the Lisbon Strategy. I fully intend to contribute actively to it, because information technologies and the information society are a way for the Lisbon Strategy to really take off.
Growth is not an end in itself. It stimulates employment, of course, and also helps to develop inclusion. Ultimately, the development of new technologies must be to the benefit of citizens and of their welfare. It is therefore essential to move towards a more people-centred approach where technologies are used by and for citizens.
Three aspects are fundamental here: combating the digital divide, stimulating the quality of life and encouraging participation.
1. First of all the digital divide, which has two aspects. A territorial one - rural or isolated areas often do not have sufficient access to the information society. And a social one - access to new technologies is restricted by low income or low levels of education. The digital culture must therefore be actively encouraged for these disadvantaged groups. This is an issue I would like to take further with you in preparing the e-Europe 2010 initiative.
As Commissioner for Education, I launched various initiatives and an "e-learning" programme with the firm support of Parliament. The experience gained in this area will help me to go one step further in my new role.
At the beginning of next year, I intend to present a communication on ‘e-accessibility’, which will provide answers to two major challenges relating to the inclusion of all in the information society: the problems associated with the ageing population and the specific problems of disabled people.
2. ICTs are helping to raise European citizens’ quality of life.
They are improving the quality of health care, for example through remote monitoring systems for certain elderly people, digital imaging techniques and remote medical assistance.
ICTs make transport safer, for example with the development of anti-collision systems or the sending of automatic distress calls.
They also make the services offered by the State more effective and transparent, for example the placing on-line of information and forms for citizens.
3.Finally, information technologies encourage participation, facilitate access to information and offer new ways of learning and communicating. In my current role, for instance, I have supported the ‘Netd@ys’, which encourage interactivity by motivating young people to express themselves and communicate using the new technologies.
Along the same lines, I will be helping to develop the potential of ICTs and giving a new boost in this area with the e-Europe 2010 initiative and through applied research. I am convinced that technical progress should have a cultural dimension and one that fosters citizenship.
The new technologies must also help to better convey Europeans’ images, stories and identities. Audiovisual dissemination is an effective way of sharing our cultural identities and our social and democratic values.
Be it television or cinema, the means of transmission are vital for the circulation of European works and content. Improving these technical means and their use so that citizens have better access to images in order to extend their range of choice is one of the reasons why the new portfolio was created.
Refining the technical means so as to preserve the image and safeguard copyright is another. All this is in line with what I have done and will continue to do under the MEDIA programme, which I have recently proposed should be renewed with a larger budget. I am counting on your support to achieve this ambitious goal.
As regards legislation, further to the consultations which have taken place, we must continue to prepare for the revision of the Television Without Frontiers Directive. The prospect of a ‘content’ directive should be explored, but it is, of course, not the only hypothesis. An approach based on a better link-up of more sectoral regulation instruments would also have its advantages. I rely on your help to find a solution that will address the current challenges successfully.
The fusion of audiovisual policy and information society policy offers us the prospect of harnessing ICTs in the interests of cultural diversity. The launch of high-definition television; the take-off of interactive television; the move towards exclusively digital broadcasting: these are developments to be encouraged and opportunities to be used for the dissemination of European content and works. It is also an opportunity to enhance industrial competitiveness as well as the political and cultural influence of Europe in the world.
Let us not forget the key economic importance of audiovisual policy. This sector represents more than 5% of the Union’s GNP and an important part – albeit one that shows a structural deficit - of our balance of payments. The cinema and television sectors employ more than a million people. A more competitive audiovisual industry would also have a beneficial impact on the Lisbon Strategy.
In this context, the role of coordinating the media economy, conferred on me by President Designate Barroso, is particularly important. It is no longer possible to focus exclusively on television and film whilst forsaking other media. Their situation is different and they have a right to expect to be treated accordingly. That being said, the media and press industries need a single contact at the Commission, so that the overall policy helps to reinforce and develop them, in the interests of pluralism.
I am aware of the importance the European Parliament attaches to media pluralism – it is a concern I share completely. I will therefore analyse the problem in cooperation with you, in the knowledge that there are no easy, holistic solutions covering all its facets.
I have just outlined to you what I hope to achieve over the months and years to come. I have not presented you with a set of ready-made solutions, but rather with ideas, goals and prospects.
I will discuss these options with you, the representatives of Europe’s citizens, so that you can bring your experience to bear to develop, together, in partnership, a policy for the future.
I do not see myself as an administrator of the acquis, but rather as a politician who wants to move forward, with the support of the technical expertise of a strong, highly qualified team. A politician who wants Europe to move forward, to take risks, to win.
By basing my work on the three pillars of innovation, inclusion and creativity, I hope to contribute to the development of a Europe forging ahead economically by stimulating competitiveness, a Europe that provides a high standard of living for its citizens, a Europe that dares to be itself culturally, to affirm its cultural diversity and – why not? – to make people dream.
Hearings of the Commissioners Designate : European Parliament website