Europa

Europe 2.0: the Tallinn to-do list

by Jüri Ratas

The Prime Minister of Estonia Jüri Ratas (left) with Eu Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker

3' di lettura

For decades, Europe has embodied a clear promise: that each successive generation would be better off than their parents - healthier and wealthier, more secure and more free. Yet for many Europeans today, their faith in the future is wavering.

This morning, European leaders will gather in Tallinn for the EU's first digital summit. We will meet in a refitted early 20th century power plant, coming together in a symbol of the previous industrial revolution in order to tackle the next.

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Our discussions in Tallinn will look at four topics: building a thriving digital economy, preparing for a future of work that requires digital skills and adaptability, safeguarding Europe’s cyberspace, and rebuilding government to meet the needs of the digital era.

Europe cannot sustain its economic and social triple-A ratings without a digital triple-A. To achieve this, we need three things: the right infrastructure, the right rules and the right attitude.

The right infrastructure
From the Mesopotamian irrigation systems to Via Appia, all civilisations have needed infrastructure to function. When Europe’s 500 million citizens and 26 million enterprises want to connect, work, buy, sell and create online, they need a network. There is no point in having a connected car when there is nothing to connect to. The rollout of 5G and gigabit internet are prerequisites for a digital society and digital economy.

We must also bring the infrastructure of government into the 21st century.
EU citizens should have the right to a secure digital identity and the option to use e-signatures. Both must function everywhere in Europe, so you would be able to use your e-prescription when on holiday abroad, for example. All our institutions have to be digi-proofed to deliver what people have every right to expect: convenient, user-friendly and customised online service.

The right rules
In order to take advantage of our infrastructure, we need clear and fair rules of the road. The free movement of data should be the fifth freedom of the European Union. When people, goods, services and capital can move across borders unhindered, information cannot be left behind. The European Commission took a big step in the right direction this month with its proposal to abolish outdated data localisation rules.

EU laws need to catch up in every area, from protecting our privacy to fighting illegal content online. It will not be our focus in Tallinn, but we have to rethink some of our most fundamental systems of governance, with taxation and social security chief among them.

The right attitude
A perfect football pitch and well-established rules are not enough for a game when people lack the inclination – and maybe even the basic skills – to play. Our views will differ on where and how fast we should move. As long as we agree on overall goals, this can be a strength. We can use the enthusiasm of the pioneers to pilot new solutions, while wielding the caution of others as a tool to look for potential weaknesses. A version of beta-testing, if you will.

By 2020, the value of the data economy will reach over €700 billion worldwide. If we only focus on risks, we lose sight of the very real opportunities our people and companies deserve to benefit from.

To ensure no one is left behind, all Europeans must have access to the education and training that will make them properly equipped for these jobs – no matter how old they are or where they live.

Digitalisation and automation will transform our labour markets: some jobs will disappear, but many will be created. To ensure no one is left behind, all Europeans must have access to the education and training that will make them properly equipped for these jobs – no matter how old they are or where they live.
Sometimes, it's fear for our digital security that holds us back. The solution is not to leave cyberspace, but to make it as safe as possible. This means implementing the legislation we already have, and making sure everybody takes the basic cyber hygiene steps that can prevent 90% of cyberattacks. It also means researching and investing in cybersecurity, helping industry build products and services that are secure from the ground up, and contributing to a global internet that is more secure.

Work is already under way on all these challenges. We do not lack ideas, start-ups or success stories. But we are still fragmented and don't use all the potential that our single market and highly educated work force provide.
The European Project has been successful largely because its founders were able to imagine a future that was both inspiring and achievable. It is now our turn to imagine a Europe where our values, freedoms and social standards are upheld everywhere: in the North and South, East and West, online and off.

The author is Prime Minister of Estonia

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