Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be with you today.I would like to thank the Center for Transatlantic Relations at SAIS for making this event possible.

This institution continues to set the intellectual tempo because of the excellence of its faculty and student body here in Washington and beyond.

I don’t need to convince anyone at SAIS of the importance of the relationship between the US and Europe. SAIS leads here by example: You have had a second home in Europe for 60 years now – there are many alumni of SAIS Bologna in Brussels, very good people I have to say.

The EU has bonds with many countries in the world. We are, after all, a global player. However, the transatlantic partnership is the world's most significant. That goes for trade flows as well as for digital goods and data flows.

The strength of the bonds between the EU and the US must be kept, also in the digital age. And the shared values reflected in our transatlantic trade flows are also valid in the digital realm.

Therefore, the cooperation with the US is close to my heart. And the visit this week to the US is my first one in the new portfolio outside Europe.

There are often misperceptions on both sides - they need to be discussed and explained, not to become entrenched dividing lines. One example for that is the "Digital Single Market strategy" which we launched beginning of May. I had several meetings with the administration as well as with companies and associations to underline that the DSM strategy is not about a "splendid isolation" of Europe. It is not about "Fortress Europe". It is about making Europe fit for the digital age and to keep being the right partner in a globalised world.

I think we all agree that the sector of Information and Communication Technologies is the most promising one; and that data is its fuel and currency.

ICT is key to secure our competitiveness. The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, made the stepping up of digital policy an absolute priority.

And I am proud to be responsible for strengthening Europe’s digital capabilities, in coordination with European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip and all the Commissioners working on the Digital Single Market strategy.

 

Firstly, let me say a few words about my first impressions of this visit.

I deliberately started my trip this week at an event showcasing European start-ups in Silicon Valley.

This allowed me to see up close the famous strengths of Silicon Valley, but also to see the depth of talent we have in Europe's start-up community.

From Berlin to Bratislava, from Stockholm to Paris, the start-up community is bringing ideas, creativity, and new jobs to Europe.

I spoke to Facebook, to Apple and to eBay. We spoke about the enormous opportunities that digital can bring, but also about the challenges of rapid transition.

Allow me to say a few words about what we in the European Union are doing to unlock these opportunities and to face these challenges.

One of the barriers industry faces in Europe when trying to stay competitive is the fragmentation of our market.

Let me quote some pretty well-known companies about doing business in Europe:

"… A Digital Single Market would be very good. It would make it easier for companies to offer services, easier for them to comply with the laws because they actually know what the laws are in all these different places…"

"…We see enormous, inclusive growth potential in the digital economy and have great hopes for the Digital Single Market…"

You may have heard those quotes somewhere before.

The first comes from May this year when we launched our Digital Single Market package. It was from Mark Zuckerberg.

You can find the second one on the corporate website of eBay.

 

Why does that matter?

Because there are lots of people who like to tell a nice neat story of how any plans to strengthen Europe in the digital age is a zero-sum game, with European winners and American losers.

They see us looking at Regulations as the secret key to a "Fortress Europe".

My message when I was in Silicon Valley earlier this week, and my message to all my friends in DC now is clear: don’t fall into that trap.

Don't support those who want to hold on to their vested interests against the potential that a digital single market in Europe can bring.

Let's work together to ensure a level playing field when EU companies and companies from around the world can bring investment, growth and jobs to Europe.

Let me be more specific regarding the topics that are essential for the completion of the Digital Single Market and the future of Europe. I see four points where we need to work on:

First, the Digital Single Market needs to be enabled by unconstrained connectivity for everyone and everything, everywhere. This is true for each and every citizen. And this is also true for industry, for businesses, whatever their size and origin, for schools, research and innovation centres. It is the availability and the use of high-quality connectivity that will enable and ultimately determine the success of companies, wherever they might come from, in today’s markets.

Incidentally, in Europe there are no barriers for foreign companies to invest or to get access to these networks. That is not always the case when looking to other parts of the world, including the U.S.A.

Our investment decisions of today will determine the quality of networks well beyond 2020! That is why we need to better understand the Internet functionalities which are necessary for our digital future.

Second, next generation mobile technologies – 5G -  which is a prerequisite towards the implementation of a really scalable and sustainable Internet of Things, in terms of cost and energy efficiency. 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.

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.

We need to 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.

Third, 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.

Fourth, looking beyond the ICT sector per se: we also need to digitise the industry in the broader sense. Future growth and jobs depend on mastering the digitalisation of industry at large.

You can probably tell that I am from Germany.

Maybe you even drive a nice German car like me.

The automotive sector is one of Europe's most challenging sectors. The IT sector and electric and manufacturing and automotive are coming together. The next generation of cars will have top design, top engines, but also top communication.

The real challenging question is whether the communication technology will be integrated in the engineering or the engineering into the communication technology.

Yesterday I went to see Google and I went to see Mercedes.

Fascinating.

One of them is looking at how a platform can become a car company. The other is embracing the challenges of being a car company in an age where the ICT in a car accounts for most of the added value of the final product.

Last week I was at the Frankfurt Motor Show, where I discussed this with car companies and telecom companies, so we can see where we need to go as mobility becomes a driver of our economy.

While it is clear that we need to listen to the needs of our industry, we also need to look at digital skills.

Digital skills for everyday life, for a normal job, and for ICT specialists.

Indeed, today many people are afraid that their job can be "digitised away".

This is no idle fear. Some jobs as we know them today will disappear.

But this is nothing new. Digitisation or no digitisation, nothing is as constant as change.

The automotive sector is just one example: Our challenge is to ensure urgently that all industrial sectors make the best use of new technologies and manage their digital transformation.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

The EU and U.S. economies represent half of the world economy. We represent between 20 and 25 per cent of the world trade.

We complement each other and it makes a lot of sense for us to work closely.

When it comes to digital matters, both sides have issues to deal with.

As part of my commitment to consult widely on our intentions, I am happy to announce that today we launched public consultations on issues that are the focus of lots of interest in this country:

  1. assessment of online platforms, intermediary liability and what we call the sharing economy;

  2. the free flow of data initiative;

  3. the “European Cloud” initiative.

I encourage you to comment on these public consultations. We need to know what you think. We will always listen and be open to dialogue: but as peers, not as students. We will engage constructively and respectfully with the U.S.A., but we will not be lectured. On this, I want to be very clear.

So let's continue cooperating, dialoguing, and meeting up whenever possible. My door is open, just as the European Union is open for business.

I look forward to your questions.

Thank you.