Regional and bilateral relations focus on market access for European companies and on promoting a sound and transparent regulatory environment in all parts of the world that is as closely aligned to the European model as possible.

A global environment with fair and transparent rules

Regional and bilateral relations aim to achieve a global environment with fair and transparent rules for telecommunication regulation and where ICT companies can compete on a level playing field.

The Commission aims to foster a regulatory system that is close to, and compatible with the EU legal framework. It also acts as a first port of call for European ICT industry, and actively promotes cooperation between the EU and third countries in the area of research and innovation in ICT.

In order to maintain and further develop regional and bilateral relations, Policy Dialogues are regularly held with EU's strategic partners, including the United States, Japan and others.

Policy goals

Activities and policy development in this area typically aim to:

  • strengthen the economic and industrial competitiveness of the EU ICT industry;
  • establish globally a favourable environment for European business and research with an increased focus on reciprocity;
  • improve market access conditions in the ICT sector in third countries;
  • promote the use of international standards and interoperability of technologies;
  • strengthen the EU's excellence and attractiveness in research and innovation;
  • tackle global societal challenges;
  • support the EU's external policies.

Geographical scope

Activities are grouped according to the following geographical areas:

Activity implementation is usually carried out in close cooperation with various Commission services.

Digital for development

As part of its support for the Sustainable Development Goals, the Commission is mainstreaming the use of digital technologies and services to broaden the reach of the EU’s Development Policy. The Digital4Development approach promotes digital solutions as part of the fight against poverty and inequality. The initial focus is on Africa, where actions such as mobile payments have been shown to have the biggest impact.

On 28th November 2016, the Council adopted conclusions on this issue as follows:

"Digitisation needs to be properly mainstreamed across all policy areas, including in the EU's development and foreign policies, while addressing cyber challenges and assuring the promotion and protection of human rights, with particular attention to freedom of expression online."

On 4th May 2017, the Commission published the first Staff Working Document on Digital 4 Development, establishing 4 priorities for intervention:

  • Access to affordable digital infrastructure
  • Digital skills & literacy
  • Digital entrepreneurship; and
  • Digital as an enabler for achieving the sustainable development goals.

See the press release and follow on Twitter at #Digital4Dev and #ICT4DEV

International Cooperation in ICT Research and Innovation

Under the Horizon 2020 programme, DG CONNECT is investing EUR 13.6 million in 2018 to reinforce international cooperation with partners in low and middle income countries in the digital sphere.

  • A community platform for building peace through information-driven dialogue in Kenya and Rwanda is being developed through the ISOOKO project.
  • In West Africa the project FANFAR is an example of how crucial ICT is for forecasting floods, a rapidly growing concern projected to increase with climate change.
  • The SAMS project allows active monitoring and remote sensing of bee health and beekeeping by developing an appropriate ICT solution supporting management of bee health and bee productivity in Ethiopia and Indonesia.
  • In Vietnam and Greece and with future expansion to other countries the YAKSHA project will enhance cybersecurity readiness levels for its end users, help better prevent cyber-attacks, reduce cyber risks and better govern the whole cybersecurity process.
  • The WAZIHUB project will accelerate Open IoT and Big Data Innovation in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Mozambique, Senegal and Ghana.
  • The GO-GA project will accelerate the adoption of richer learning environments and improved learning outcomes in science and technology, through the deployment of contextually engaging digital Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) content and capacity development of teachers in Nigeria, Kenya and Benin Republic and expand to other countries.
  • To address the skills-gap in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, the EPICA project is setting up a process of co-design, adaptation, implementation and validation of an innovative and scalable Competency-Based ePortfolio.

Other ongoing projects include the following:

  • The PICASSO project reinforces EU-US collaboration in ICT research and innovation focusing on the pre-competitive research in key enabling technologies related to societal challenges - 5G Networks, Big Data, Internet of Things and Cyber Physical Systems. PICASSO is oriented to industrial needs, and provides a forum for ICT communities. It involves 24 prominent EU and US specialists in the three technology-oriented ICT Expert Groups and an ICT Policy Expert Group. These specialists work closely together to identify policy gaps in the technology domains and to take measures to stimulate policy dialogue in these areas. A synergy between experts in ICT policies and in ICT technologies is a unique feature of PICASSO. The project analyses the industrial drivers, societal needs, and priorities for EU-US ICT collaboration.
  • DISCOVERY aims to support dialogues between Europe and North America, and to foster cooperation in collaborative ICT Research & Innovation, both under Horizon 2020 and under US and Canada funding programmes. At the core of the DISCOVERY action is the Transatlantic ICT Forum that will be established as a sustainable mechanism to support policy debate and to provide opinions and recommendations furthering meaningful dialogues for purpose-driven and mutually beneficial cooperation between Europe and North America in the field of ICT.
  • The main objective of the Idealist2018 project is to reinforce the network of National Contact Points for LEIT ICT under Horizon2020, by promoting further trans-national cooperation within this network. This cooperation will also include collaboration and networking with similar networks in parallel themes (Security, Environment, Transport, Energy, Health) especially in the context of joint/coordinated or Public-Private Partnership calls. Special focus is placed on helping less experienced National Contact Points from Member States and Associated Countries to access the know-how accumulated in other countries and to apply it in a locally relevant and efficient manner.
  • The EPIC project aims to improve cooperation in the area of information and communication technologies between Europe and three partner countries in the Asia-Pacific (Australia, New Zealand and Singapore). EPIC will foster cooperation in ICT research, technology development and innovation-related topics at the policy and the researcher level. The initiative builds on cooperation policy dialogues, the analysis of research capabilities, and on recommendations from previous projects involving these countries. The objectives of the project include:
    • identifying and updating third country programmes, common Research & Development priorities and future cooperation opportunities;
    • organising events that are synchronised with dialogue meetings and contribute to increase their focus and visibility;
    • reinforcing industrial cooperation on ICT research and development through improved networking activities.
  • The IST-Africa project has 4 complementary objectives focused on strengthening ICT-related research and innovation cooperation between Europe and Africa by fostering greater coordination of research and innovation activities; strengthening research and innovation linkages, increase awareness of research and innovation capacity and cooperation opportunities, and support mutually beneficial collaboration; monitoring research and innovation activities in 17 IST-Africa Partner Countries to identify and provide input on common Research & Developments priorities and future cooperation opportunities; and promoting participation in relevant Horizon 2020 calls.