Joint statement: Four priorities for the Slovenian Presidency to lay the groundwork for the EU recovery
On 1 July, Slovenia will take over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, concluding a Presidency Trio marked by unprecedented sanitary and economic crises.
Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, Director-General of DIGITALEUROPE, said:
“As the vaccination rollout raises hopes for a European renaissance, the Slovenian Presidency has the opportunity to conclude the ambitious programme initiated by Germany and Portugal.
To support the new Council Presidency in this task, we have identified four immediate areas of action: boosting the role of digital to enable a sustainable and inclusive recovery; artificial intelligence and effective standardisation; stronger infrastructure based on high-speed connectivity and cybersecurity; and cross-border data flows for more resilient industries and healthcare.”
Nenad Šutanovac, Director of the ICT Association of Slovenia, said:
“Slovenia has an amazing opportunity to showcase its digital potential and lead the European Union into the Digital Decade.
A speedy and universal deployment of digital technologies can have significant economic, societal and geopolitical implications, and we need to boost and secure Europe’s position as a tech leader in the global digital race.”
DIGITALEUROPE will continue to support the new Council Presidency in this task, as we did with the previous two Presidencies in the Trio. As the Slovenian government drafts its workplan for the next six months, we recommend focusing on four priorities:
- A sustainable and inclusive EU recovery: The Slovenians will have a key role in coordinating the roll-out of the national recovery plans, which will be crucial to make sure the European recovery is linked to our digital targets for the next decade. In addition, the new Presidency should keep working towards a balanced Digital Services Act and e-Privacy framework to make digitalisation work for everyone, as well as boosting the role of digital to enable our green transition.
- Artificial intelligence and standards: The new Presidency should work towards an AI Act that keeps its risk-based approach while effectively providing regulatory sandboxes, especially for smaller companies. Collaborating with the Commission and international bodies on an efficient standardisation and market access policy will be a key complement to this.
- High-speed networks and cybersecurity: Besides promoting Member State uptake of high-speed connectivity, the Presidency will have a key role in strengthening the bloc’s cybersecurity by securing a harmonised and focused review of the Directive on Security of Network and Information Systems (NIS2).
- Data for industry and healthcare: The Presidency should work with the Commission towards the swift set-up of common European data spaces fostering access to industrial and health data This is crucial for economic growth, and to boost research and innovation in healthcare. Maintaining open and secure cross-border data flows (in Europe and beyond) will be crucial for economic growth and the new Presidency can do much to keep negotiations for a new Privacy Shield going and foster closer EU-US alignment.
Four priorities for the Slovenian Council Presidency
A sustainable and inclusive EU recovery
The Slovenian Presidency will have a key role in coordinating the roll-out of the national recovery plans, including the implementation of multi-country projects. The Recovery and Resilience Facility is a unique opportunity for Member States to commit to broader reforms linked to Europe’s digital targets for 2030 and to collaborate across border towards a more harmonised Single Market.
Making digitalisation work for everyone means empowering consumers and small businesses, allowing everyone to equally access the benefits of a strong, unfragmented Digital Single Market based on free and fair competition. The Digital Services Act will need to balance the protection of our fundamental rights like freedom of speech with preventing illegal and harmful activities online.
In the interest of pushing innovation in Europe while fostering trust in the digital environment, we also support the Slovenian Presidency as they take over the e-Privacy trilogues from their Portuguese predecessors. It is vital that the new Presidency carries on the excellent negotiation work done so far, for instance by ensuring closer alignment to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and allowing more flexibility for the legal basis for further compatible processing, including for terminal equipment, such as routers or servers. This is crucial for Europe’s digital transformation, from connected health to smart manufacturing, and to take full advantage of the Digital Decade to come.
A more connected and digitalised society will also help us deliver on the EU Green Deal goals, and this should be reflected in legislation around the 2030 targets, such as the upcoming “Fit for 55” package. Integrating digital and smart solutions in a range of emission-intensive sectors – from construction to mobility – has an outstanding potential to lower energy consumption, cut harmful emissions, and deliver cleaner air and cities. The European Green Digital Coalition is an important initiative that will measure the impact of digital and will help speed up the deployment of digital solutions to support certain key sectors in becoming greener.
Europe should continue its global leadership and further boost international collaboration and regulatory alignment, in particular in the context of the EU-US relations and in view of COP26.
Artificial intelligence and standards
Europe’s vision for the Digital Decade is to become the leading continent in trustworthy artificial intelligence (AI). How can we ensure a human-centric approach while boosting research and industrial capacity? The AI Act must keep its risk-based approach – that is, identifying specific high-risk areas for regulation, rather than using a blanket approach to all AI applications – but it also needs to keep an eye on the small players, lest they be left out.
As it is, the regulation threatens to place excessive administrative burdens and barriers to market access especially for smaller companies – such as ex-ante conformity assessments – and thus diminishing the EU’s capacity for innovation. To make sure European businesses are able to safely develop and test new technologies, public-private collaboration as well as effective regulatory sandboxes will be crucial.
The AI Act, as well as the Industrial Strategy and the twin green and digital transitions, all rely heavily on an efficient standardisation and market access policy. Standards are crucial to make complex technical legislation implementable in practice for companies, from large technology firms to start-ups and SMEs.
As recognised by Member States at the February and May Competitiveness Council meetings, the EU, however, struggles in this area, fragmenting the Single Market and impeding the development of new technologies. We therefore strongly encourage the Council Presidency to work closely with the European Commission, standardisation bodies and industry to remedy the current challenges with harmonised standards, including addressing delays and improving international alignment with like-minded partners.
High-speed networks and cybersecurity
Upgrading our digital infrastructure is also a top priority. We need to extend high-speed connectivity to all parts of society and ensure that networks are secure. Despite being home to global leaders in 5G technology development, Europe lags critically behind in uptake. We need to speed up rollout across all EU Member States.
Cyberthreats skyrocketed during the pandemic, revealing that much still needs to be done to harmonise Member States’ cybersecurity protection initiatives and to boost the EU’s overall level of cybersecurity. In this context, the review of the Directive on Security of Network and Information Systems (NIS2) will be a key enabler for a safer, more resilient Europe in the digital age.
The revised NIS should provide greater clarity on the scope of the proposal, ensure Member State harmonisation and regulatory consistency, foster international alignment with standards and existing industry best practices and promote consistent, predictable enforcement at Member State level.
The power of data for the future of industry and healthcare
Europe has a strong data potential, but it remains untapped. In 2020, the data economy represented only 3 per cent of the EU’s gross domestic product (GDP). We believe that Europe can, and must, grow its data economy to 6 per cent of GDP by 2025.
The Data Governance Act and the upcoming Data Act (set to be presented by the Commission in Autumn 2021) have a key role in building a robust governance framework, accelerating data sharing and use through the European data spaces. Making public data available for research and innovation, supporting data altruism, safeguarding existing industrial data sharing initiatives and harmonising rules across Europe are all instrumental measures to tap into the treasure trove of data we are sitting on.
This is not limited to data generated and collected in Europe; digital knows no borders, and international data flows are necessary for our industries to grow at home and abroad, and for Europe to attract the world’s best businesses and investors. The new Presidency can do much to keep negotiations for a new Privacy Shield going and foster closer EU-US alignment.
Continued international collaboration to secure open and strong global supply chains will also be essential if we are to step up design and development of critical technology components, and to keep Europe’s status of industrial heavyweight in the digital decade. The Presidency should support the creation of easily actionable plans to help the EU industrial ecosystems in their twin digital and green transitions.
Finally, we must not forget the lesson COVID-19 has taught us on the importance of cross-border data flows for healthcare. Setting up a Common European Health Data Space must be the top priority in order to boost research and innovation among academia and industry alike.
Joint statement by:
DIGITALEUROPE is the leading trade association representing digitally transforming industries in Europe. We stand for a regulatory environment that enables European businesses and citizens to prosper from digital technologies. We wish Europe to grow, attract and sustain the world’s best digital talents and technology companies.
The ICT association of Slovenia (ZIT) is one of the industry associations, part of Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia. It represents the ICT industry of Slovenia within the country of Slovenia as well as abroad and is the main stakeholder in the field of digitalisation in Slovenia.