They discussed how the changes brought by the EU’s Digital Single Market can put the relationship with the Southern Mediterranean on a new footing.
Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel, who hosted the high-level event, and Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip said:
The Digital4Med conference brought closer together the EU and the Mediterranean countries around the common objective to strengthen our partnership through digital cooperation. It is an important step towards developing synergies and working together in crucial matters such as connectivity, data economy, entrepreneurship and digital skills that will yield positive outcomes for our citizens and enterprises. We are convinced that this is the first step for a continuous open and transparent dialogue essential for reaping all the benefits and mitigating the risks of the digital transition of our economies and societies.
Discussions focused in particular on areas that can have the biggest impact and where the EU has relevant experience and demonstrated expertise, such as:
- Identifying connectivity needs in the Southern Mediterranean countries and find ways to strengthen the high-speed connectivity between the EU and South Med countries;
- Promoting public & private investment for the interconnection between the Southern Mediterranean countries and EU research networks;
- Cooperating closer on telecom matters and regulatory frameworks;
- Creating an environment favourable to entrepreneurship;
- Increasing digital maturity and efficiency in traditional sectors such as agriculture, health, government, finance, water management, transport, energy, etc. with data analytics and supercomputers.
Connectivity is a critical infrastructure and a necessary condition for modern digital economies as it provides better opportunities for citizens, professionals and companies. The EU’s External Investment Plan (EIP) intends to mobilise €350 million to provide guarantees to loans for the digital transformation of the EU neighbourhood and for investments in broadband. It will improve connectivity in the region, help create more companies, and transform the economy to a modern, digital one. International cooperation in areas such as high performance computing (HPC), big data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) can, for example, help combat issues in global topics such as for agriculture, health, migration and water management.
President Juncker’s 2018 State of the Union speech outlined a new European approach to Africa. The EU’s External Investment Plan will mobilise €44 billion of investments for Africa and the EU Neighbourhood, through an EU contribution of €4 billion. Including €74 million for a Digital Transformation Platform & Broadband Investment Programme, designed to increase the use of digital technologies, and widen rural access to broadband.