Check Against Delivery


Good Afternoon Minister Simson, Henrik, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.  

It is a pleasure to be here amongst the cream of the crop when it comes to people and companies who aim to push the boundaries in transport and in digitalisation. First of all, I want to thank the Estonian Presidency for their work so far. Tallinn and Estonia has a reputation for being very advanced when it comes to the digital revolution, whether it is through e-Government or inventing Skype – you have a strong track-record. Now through your presidency, where you have placed digitalisation as one of its core themes, you are once again leading Europe and the world in this field.  



All through this week you have heard from experts in the field. From CEOs, to Policy Makers; from Investors to Innovators; there is a fantastic mix of people gathered here in this wonderful city of Tallinn – all of you dreaming big and ready to deliver on the digital revolution in transport.



During the various workshops this week, you are discovering the detail of the various files and proposals we are working on. The purpose of these files is to speed up and help guide the digitalisation of transport forward.

Today, however, I want to share with you my vision. I like the quote by Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher, who said:

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” 

So please dream with me and imagine the world we want to live in. And then, let's start doing it, shaping our day-to-day activities, investments and partnerships towards this dream. And when we retire, we will look back and try to understand how we made it.

When I became Transport Commissioner just over three years ago, I first wanted to understand the real needs of transport stakeholders and the needs of the portfolio itself. During this search together with the Commission services, we also identified the key players that sincerely wanted to make a difference for the EU, its citizens and its societies. Then we engaged and joined forces, searching for the best short, medium and long-term solutions that can ensure EU transport remains a key enabler of prosperity, while being a global leader in mobility solutions.


That is how the key guiding principles and objectives were identified. You can see them on the slide behind me: Digitalisation, Decarbonisation, Investment and Innovation, with People and Global Leadership in the centre. All point towards greater efficiency and better connectivity. This is essential for a Single European Transport Area, or Transport Union. All of the elements are interlinked, and if we consider them all carefully when developing our transport system, then we cannot go wrong with our strategies, action plans and instruments.


This week, the conference focuses on digitalisation. For many people gathered here, digitalisation is the 'end game'. It's your company, your career, your job, your passion, your way to see our society evolve. However, I am inviting you to go deeper:

  • To challenge the way we understand the digital world.

  • To imagine what comes after digitalisation.

    It is important we build a Digital Architecture and an efficient, open but secure digital ecosystem. The importance of big data and smart data cannot be underestimated. Data is being called the new gold, and it will underpin our transport network into the future. Therefore it is important we have open and common standards and interfaces, while at the same time ensuring that cybersecurity and individual privacy by choice, is a top priority.



    Let's imagine, and open up a world of possibilities. I know that Europe has the talent, the skill and the drive to lead the world in digitalising transport. We did it with GSM and we can do it again by seeing the emergence of the new before anyone else.  Yes, the effort will be enormous, but the digital revolution will continue to remould and reshape everything. It will continue to transform the fabric of our lives, of our society, of the way we organise ourselves as a human race.  So either we lead or we follow. What would you like to do? I know where I stand!

    When President Juncker spoke about breaking down the silos at the start of this Commission three years ago, he was speaking about preparing for the inevitable – the need for greater cooperation across policy areas in order to be successful. He may have been speaking about the way he wanted the Commission to work, but his visionary words could also be applied to transport modes or indeed to the way different sectors of our economy and our society are now converging. What is transport? What is mobility? Energy? What is the 'Digital' sector? Where does our sector start and where do the others end?  Why would an internet search engine want to build car engines?

    The silos have already been broken, the lines have been blurred, and that has allowed and will continue to allow, for disruptive innovation to emerge. Innovation always happens at the edge of two overlapping sectors or concepts. That is how new ideas are developed and eventually deployed. Breaking down barriers is how new, exciting horizons come into view.  But please, do not forget that to be successful these ideas need to respond to real needs not wishes – the real needs of our society, our people and our planet.

    If today we still speak about different modes of transport, tomorrow we certainly will not. The importance will be getting from A to B – ownership, the operator, the type of vehicle or vehicles used will be only a secondary thought for the mobility user. Digital will be present in every corner of our lives. Yet for most people, most of the time, it will be rather invisible.



    It is important that the process of digitalisation is guided and managed properly, with partnerships between regulators and private industry.

    We know that we have to respond to real challenges, opportunities and problems:

  • How can digitalisation support the move towards zero emission mobility?

  • How can we ensure that digitalisation puts an end to the 3,000 people a day who lose their lives on the road worldwide?

  • How can we make sure that new business models will actually serve our older people, as well?

    As new concepts and ways of doing business, new ways of attracting revenue are already beginning to emerge:

  • How will we make sure our people and our workforce adapt to these new models and new types of job?

    There are no simple answers, but the process of cooperation, between public and private partners, as well as forward planning will be essential in ensuring we can fully reap the benefits of digitalisation. Yet, I want to make it very clear, if we want to really own digitalisation and be successful, it will have to be about the extension of our capacities as humans, not replacing humans in society. We need to serve the needs of the human being, while making sure the solutions are in harmony with our natural surrounds, allowing for truly balanced and sustainable growth and development. I try to do everything that is in my power to encourage solutions so that the planet can thrive.   



    I am drawing to a close. All though it is impossible to know exactly how our mobility system will develop and at what pace, we do know that change is afoot.


    Let's just look at a couple of examples:

  • ERTMS in rail is allowing trains travel from one end of the EU to the other, without stopping at borders to change the locomotive (front engine);

  • Our Air Traffic Management system is growing more efficient by the days thanks to SESAR's solutions;

  • The Single Window in the maritime sector is cutting red-tape and costs for shipping operators;

  • A2A & B2A databases being established in the next few years will help cut the administrative burden by around 60 per cent in road transport;

  • In the future, flying cars, interoperable transport and unmanned ships will all be part of the transport mix. Our job is to dream big and deliver creative solutions!


    We know that it will be complex, but we also know that if it is done right, the rewards will be truly amazing. That is why next year – 2018 – is dedicated to multimodality and will be the perfect period to come together and push the digitalisation of transport to yet another level.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, the challenges and tasks ahead of us will be difficult and even daunting at times. But, coming back to the Danish philosopher I mentioned, he also wisely said:

    "The task must be made difficult, for only the difficult inspires the noble-hearted''

    That is where you come in.

    I have no doubt that we will make a few empty runs along the way. However, curiosity will lead us forward, and the most important thing is to enjoy the ride as we continue to move to our destination.

    Thank you.