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The European Commission launched its Digital Agenda for Europe in February 2020, with a series of thematic and legislative initiatives in the digital field. This digital strategy forms - together with the Green Deal - the twin challenge of transforming the European economy into a sustainable economy and society for the future.
The main elements of the EU Digital Agenda are
- The technologies: "Advanced Digital Technologies". The aim is to develop and deploy (new) technologies which will have a (positive) impact on the daily life of the citizen. Initiatives such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) known through the development of connected devices, supercomputers (HPC - high performance computing), the Cloud, Blockchain, etc.
- The promotion and regulation of a competitive digital single market: "Digital Economy". The regulation of digital platforms (Digital Services Act (DSA) and Digital Markets Act (DMA)) as well as strategies for the use of data (Digital Governance Act (DGA) and Data Act), which aims to put in place an adequate legislative framework in order to encourage the sharing of data (especially industrial data) and thus encourage the development of new economic and industrial applications based upon the analysis of this data. Digital skills development and the digital labour market, connectivity and telecommunications are also part of the digital strategy.
- Trust, protection of personal data and communications: "Digital Society". The objective is to build the trust of citizens in digital communication and services, inter alia by protecting their personal data and communications. These include initiatives such as the e-Privacy Regulation to protect digital communications, digital public services, as well as digital inclusion.
- The international aspects: the external (international) policy of the EU in the digital field.
The recent coronavirus crisis has accelerated the entry of the digitalised society (teleworking/videoconferencing, e-commerce, streaming, AI applications, coronavirus apps, online teaching, etc.) with many positive applications but also negative aspects such as increased cybercrime and disinformation/harmful content.
The EU therefore wants to pay attention to how we can share data easily and on a large scale (data sharing, AI, digital governance act, data economy, cloud, high performance computing, etc.), which are sufficiently protected (GDPR, e-privacy) and secure (cyber security), in which the EU also wishes to play a strong role globally. This also requires the deployment of the necessary and interoperable infrastructure required to increase connectivity in rural and already connected regions, the necessary e-skills to reduce the digital divide (upskill and reskill) and sufficient funding for the research, development and deployment of applications (Connecting Europe Facility 2, the Digital Europe Programme and Horizon Europe).
In doing so, care must always be taken to maintain the level playing field, both within the EU and on the world stage (e-commerce, the role of platforms as gatekeepers, digital value chains, Digital Services Act, respect for consumer rights online, combatting illegal and harmful content, etc). Internationally, the EU wants more strategic autonomy and digital sovereignty without resorting to international protectionism and with its own European character (including respect for privacy and fundamental rights) which it also wants to promote as an international standard.
Objectives for Belgium
Belgium endorses the importance of the digital strategy with the development of new technologies, a functioning single digital market and open data management in line with its own European approach. This always with an eye to the role and the place of the SMEs in the digital ecosystem which are important to the Belgian economy and the support of SMEs in further digitalisation; need for sufficient funding (Digital Europe Programme (DEP), Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), MFF, Horizon Europe); respect for privacy, the need for e-skills (upskill/reskill), and with a good balance between costs and benefits (cybersecurity).
Belgium also supports the promotion and development of a stable framework for data infrastructures, as well as the securing and harmonisation of the digital market, in order to promote European competitiveness while reducing market fragmentation. The principles of interoperability, connectivity and portability are crucial for these infrastructures, as well as the integration of ethical rules, in accordance with data protection.
Advocating for further digitalisation, Belgium regularly aligns itself with the initiatives of other member states which share Belgian priorities. Belgium wishes to defend Belgian interests by cooperating with other European member states, while maintaining a positive attitude towards the European project.