On 11 June I had the pleasure of participating online in the annual European Dialogue on Internet Governance (EuroDIG). This was the first major event in the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) ecosystem to be organised entirely online since the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis, and it set the example for other upcoming events in the calendar, including the global IGF in November that will also take place online.

image of internet connections across the European continent

In recent months we have highlighted several times the resilience shown by the internet architecture, which has been able to cope with a significant increase and spikes in traffic due to the current circumstances. I believe it is necessary to point out, as well, the strong resilience that the internet governance community, civil society, innovators and researchers have shown in this difficult situation.

It was planned that EuroDIG (The Pan-European dialogue on Internet governance) would take place this year in Trieste, Italy, at the Abdus Salam International Center for Theoretical Physics, under the overarching theme “Towards a sustainable governance of the Internet”. But the COVID-19 crisis forced the community to reconvene the event online.

During my intervention as keynote speaker, I drew a parallel with an earlier epoch: after the Black Plague had decimated Europe in the fourteenth century, the Renaissance began. This was a bright period for all of humanity, and it started precisely in Italy. In the same way, we will need now to join forces and initiate a bright new period that this time will take the shape of a Green and Digital Renaissance. The EU and the Commission, in particular, are certainly ready to play our part in this, as we have shown with the recovery package of measures and financial instruments centered on the Next-Generation EU proposal, where green and digital R&I investments are the main pillars.

After the keynote speech, a plenary session on Digital Sovereignty that the Commission had co-organised with other stakeholders was in the agenda of the event. Digital Sovereignty will be one of the main priorities in the digital and technological portfolios of the coming years. There we stressed how digital sovereignty has a twofold and complementary meaning: on one side the users’ control over their personal data and activities online, in full respect of the democratic principles that the EU holds dear; and on the other side research and innovation investments and policies that will ensure strategic autonomy for Europe in the technological supply chain.

These ambitious goals cannot be reached in isolation, but only through effective cooperation with other actors. This is why the Commission strongly supports the effort of the UN Secretary General Guterres and his UN High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation initiative. After two years of broad consultations, the UN Secretary General last week published a Roadmap containing concrete recommendations on how to strengthen Global Digital Cooperation, and it is not a coincidence that one of the main chapters of the Roadmap focuses on the reform of the Internet Governance Forum
(IGF) and the role of its national and regional instances. These recommendations are in tune with what the Commission has put forward on the reform of the IGF, and we will certainly expect the European stakeholder community to play a central role on this in the coming months.

The Commission was once again actively engaged in EuroDIG, and several colleagues from DG CONNECT took part as key participants in different sessions, including the plenaries on 5G Governance and on Greening ICT, as well as in workshops on the role of platform and social media in the spread of misinformation and on blockchain standardisation. The discussions and interventions were meaningful and the dialogues among the different stakeholders conveyed different and sometimes controversial perspectives, in line with the spirit of EuroDIG. In the coming years, we will need to ensure that this spirit is maintained, while focusing our efforts on broadening citizens’ participation. Part of the added value of EuroDIG is, in fact, that it allows us to convey simple messages on a range of issues that have, and will have even more in the future, a high impact on the European citizens daily life.

In this way, EuroDIG can become an essential platform for Europe’s future role in the Global Digital Cooperation and in internet governance. Let’s work together for an even better EuroDIG!