Interview with Commissioner Andrus Ansip

Digitalisation is a key component of the European Commission's work plan. We interviewed Andrus Ansip, European Commissioner for Digital Single Market and Vice President of the European Commission, on his efforts towards building an innovative, vibrant and secure Digital Single Market. 

 

 

 

Earlier this month the European Parliament formally adopted an agreement on wholesale roaming price caps, based on a Commission proposal. With this last piece of the puzzle solved, "Roam like at Home" is ready to start on 15 June 2017. How will the abolition of roaming charge benefit consumers throughout Europe? 

Ansip: As of 15 June 2017, people will be able to switch on mobile services, especially data, without fear of high bills while travelling in the EU.

This is a great achievement. After nearly ten years, the EU is now putting a definitive end to the roaming anxiety that has plagued Europe since the beginning of the mobile era. Exorbitant roaming prices were an anomaly in a continent where people move freely between countries. With the end of roaming charges for travellers, we will achieve a much more vibrant Digital Single Market. At last, people will be able to stop turning off their data or phones when they cross an EU border and this will have an immediate positive impact on the lives of Europeans.

More and more Europeans, especially young people, use their mobile phone to access the internet. Last year, almost 8 out of 10 internet users in the EU surfed via a mobile or smart phone. It is important they can do so when they travel across the EU without ruining their holiday budget. 

 

ELF and its member organisations are actively working together to develop new ideas on the future of the labour market. What impact will digitisation have on Europe's labour markets? And how do we ensure that technological development will create new opportunities for tomorrow? 

Ansip: Digitalisation directly affects the labour markets. Of course some jobs will change, some will be replaced by machines and new processes, but we have to keep in mind that many new jobs will also be created by digitisation. History shows that these kinds of change are not new. When the Industrial Revolution began in the 1700s, there was concern about the deep-seated transformation that it would trigger. But in the longer term, that transformation and its aftermath created millions of jobs.

The key is to ensure that people have the skills to adapt to the digital transformation. Today, close to 40% of the workforce does not have even basic digital skills. There are many examples of how Europe is helping people overcome the digital skills gap, but we need to do more. This will be part of the upcoming review of our Digital Single Market strategy and it was recently underlined in the reflection paper on the social dimension of Europe.

 

It is election year in a number of European countries and many Europeans feel increasingly worried about online extremism and fake news on social media. What can the European Commission do to address these problems?

Ansip: The EU has increased its actions to prevent and fight against different forms of hate crime and hate speech. The Commission has engaged with social media operators to counter illegal online hate speech. In May 2016, IT companies (Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube) agreed a voluntary Code of Conduct with commitments to take action and tackle illegal online content that publicly incites violence and hatred.

The Commission's proposal to revise the Audio-visual Media Services Directive widens the definition of hate speech by referring to 'incitement to violence or hatred', and includes ethnic origin, belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. It calls for a requirement for video-sharing platforms to protect people against incitement to violence or hatred.

We are now assessing whether improved EU-wide procedures are needed for the removal of illegal content from online platforms. Fake news is also a serious problem. Social media platforms and users are acting to expose fake news and unmask the source. I also see the action of global brands and media organisations to cut commercial funding of fake news sites. 

We need to address the spread of false information by improving media literacy and critical thinking. We have to believe in the common sense of our people. Once again, fake news is bad - but Ministry of Truth is even worse.

Combining public security with personal privacy is one of the challenges ahead in the digital sphere. Do you feel that one comes at the price of the other?

Ansip: Public security and the protection of privacy are two sides of the same coin. Let me quote the founding father of today’s Europe, Robert Schuman, who said in his 1950 Declaration: "World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it."

The key word here is proportionate.

All rules should certainly be directed at protecting our people and their freedoms, while defending their security.  But we must always ensure a proportionate balance. So-called 'backdoors to Internet' may sound tempting to ensure security, but would ultimately erode trust. And trust is vital for the Digital Single Market, this is why we have recently proposed new rules to ensure the confidentiality of electronic communications and privacy, building on a strong EU framework to protect personal data that will be a reality as of May next year.

The Commission has made significant progress in carrying out the Digital Single Market strategy. What other initiatives can we expect from you in the coming months? 

Ansip: We will present our mid-term review of the Digital Single Market strategy in May. We will set out where we stand. We have put all the initiatives included in our strategy on the table, but there is still a lot of work to do. I rely on the European Parliament and Member States to adopt our proposals as soon as possible. There is no time to waste. The review is also an opportunity to define where further efforts are needed. For example, we need to do more to strengthen cybersecurity and ensure the free flow of data in the EU.

With cybersecurity, Europe made a lot of progress in 2016. We set up the first EU-wide cybersecurity law and launched a public-private cybersecurity partnership expected to generate €1.8 billion of investment by 2020; it aims to stimulate European competitiveness in the sector and discuss joint research priorities.

These are important and necessary steps forward. But with cybersecurity, there is always more work to do and it would be complacent to sit still in the face of this very real danger.

 

03. May 2017 by Intern

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