Tag Archives: Digital era

Lugano: Ukraine Recovery Conference

Brussels 11.06.2022 The Ukraine Reform Conference scheduled to take place on 4 and 5 July has been renamed the Ukraine Recovery Conference to reflect the new focus of the gathering. The way to rebuild Ukraine is through a broad-based political and diplomatic process. Switzerland and Ukraine want to start this process in Lugano. Discussions will focus on Ukraine’s reconstruction and development programme and on contributions from international partners.

The conference is being co-organised by Ukraine and Switzerland and demonstrates Switzerland’s support for the only country on the European continent currently affected by armed conflict. Prior to Russia’s attack on Ukraine in February 2022, Switzerland was the fifth largest bilateral donor in Ukraine, which is also one of the few countries where the Swiss international cooperation strategy is being implemented using all of its instruments (development cooperation, humanitarian aid and peacebuilding).

Hosting the URC2022 in Switzerland gives us the opportunity to foster an inclusive approach to the reform agenda in Ukraine based on shared responsibility. The URC2022 conference will now go beyond reforms and is aimed at rebuilding Ukraine. Switzerland will be able to support Ukraine with its expertise, engagement and unique position as a non-EU and non-NATO European country.

URC2022 is expected to attract international delegations as well as representatives from the private sector and civil society. Details are not yet known. The participation of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Prime Minister Shmyhal is confirmed, but in what form (physical or virtual) depends on how the situation evolves.

After the Euromaidan in 2013, Ukraine embarked on an ambitious reform programme. Since then, the authorities have effected more reforms than in the two decades since Ukraine’s independence in 1991. Euromaidan crystallised the Ukrainian people’s aspirations for a more European direction and closer alignment with European values for their social contract and international orientation. Although the revolution proved to be a great source of inspiration and a driver of Ukraine’s reforms, it was the association agreement and free trade agreement with the EU as well as visa liberalisation that actually anchored the country’s reform agenda. To date, Ukraine has undergone landmark reforms in banking, decentralisation and digital transformation.

The Ukraine Reform Conference (URC) takes place once a year and provides an annual overview of developments. It was launched in London in 2017 (2018 Copenhagen, 2019 Toronto and, due to COVID-19, only again in 2021 in Vilnius). The goal of the URC is for Ukraine to present the progress it has made, for international partners to express support, and for all stakeholders to examine what steps to take next to advance the reform process. Each URC is co-organised by the foreign ministers of the host country and Ukraine.

Europarl: EU social security pass

Strasbourt 26.11.2021 MEPs demand a legislative proposal from the Commission for a European social security pass before the end of 2022, to reduce the administrative burden on mobile workers.

In a resolution adopted on Thursday, November 25, the MEPs urge the European Commission to accelerate its plans for a digital European social security pass (ESSP) to facilitate the portability of social security entitlements for mobile workers. The ESSP will enable real-time verification of the data of mobile workers by the national authorities of the member state they intend to work in. It will help combat social fraud and undeclared work, but would also make it easier for workers to track and claim their rights and social security contributions.

MEPs say the ESSP initiative should bring clear benefits for all involved stakeholders: mobile workers, businesses, employers, trade unions and national authorities. It should protect workers’ rights and make administrative procedures less complicated and more time-efficient. At the same time, an ESSP should respect the diversity of national social security systems and not become a requirement for freedom of movement.

According to MEPs, any exchange of information via an ESSP should be guided by strict compliance with EU personal data protection rules. Social security and personal data should only be made available to the person and the competent national authorities concerned and should not be shared for purposes other than the enforcement of EU social security rules.

The current pilot project for a European social security pass only includes information on the social security coverage of mobile workers. MEPs want the ESSP to be extended to other areas of EU labour law, such as health insurance and pensions, and to complement the European e-ID and other EU initiatives to digitalise social security.

The resolution was adopted by 598 votes to 59 and 38 abstentions.

Since 2014 the European Parliament has called on the Commission on several occasions to introduce a legislative proposal for a European Social Security Number in order to create an EU-wide digital instrument for social security coordination. In its action plan on the European Pillar of Social Rights, the Commission announced the start of a pilot to explore launching a European Social Security Pass.

G20 Rome Leaders’ Declaration

Brussels 01.11.2021 “We, the Leaders of the G20, met in Rome on October 30th and 31st, to address today’s most pressing global challenges and to converge upon common efforts to recover better from the COVID-19 crisis and enable sustainable and inclusive growth in our Countries and across the world. As the premier forum for international economic cooperation, we are committed to overcoming the global health and economic crisis stemming from the pandemic, which has affected billions of lives, dramatically hampered progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and disrupted global supply chains and international mobility. With this in mind, we express our profound gratitude to the health and care professionals, frontline workers, international organizations and scientific community for their relentless efforts to cope with COVID-19.

“Underlining the crucial role of multilateralism in finding shared, effective solutions, we have agreed to further strengthen our common response to the pandemic, and pave the way for a global recovery, with particular regard to the needs of the most vulnerable. We have taken decisive measures to support Countries most in need to overcome the pandemic, improve their resilience and address critical challenges such as ensuring food security and environmental sustainability. We have agreed upon a shared vision to combat climate change, and taken important steps towards the achievement of gender equality. We have also further advanced in our common efforts to ensure that the benefits of digitalization are shared broadly, safely and contribute to reducing inequalities”.

MEPs focus on media in Digital Decade

Strasbourg 20.10.2021 European Parliament voices concerns about attacks on EU media in some member states and calls for urgent action to help news media be fit for the “Digital Decade”.

In a resolution adopted on Wednesday by 577 votes to 47 and 76 abstentions, MEPs push for substantial support for the media sector from the EU and member states in order to help the sector recover from the pandemic and transform itself to keep pace with the changing business models of the digital age.

Worried about state capture of media in some member states and lawsuits designed to intimidate and silence journalists (“SLAPPs”), MEPs call for legislative and non-legislative tools to protect media organisations.
In order to safeguard the financial and political independence of European journalists and journalism, Parliament wants a permanent EU news media fund and stresses that EU recovery funds earmarked for the media must support media organisations in those EU countries where media face particular financial and political pressure or rule-of-law concerns.

MEPs also point to the dangers of the “disproportionate economic impact” and “predatory behaviour” of global online platforms that dominate data and advertising markets and have the power to remove legal content provided by media services. Additionally, they demand the urgent adoption of the Digital Services and Digital Markets acts, which can provide a level playing field for the EU media and ensure equal access to data and rules on online political advertising.
To support the EU’s audiovisual industry (filmmakers, producers, distributors and cinemas) MEPs demand the EU to develop special tax policies as well as fiscal and financial incentives to boost production and investments, the setting up of EU insurance guarantees for audiovisual co-productions and rules to ensure catalogues of on-demand services contain a share of European works of at least 30%.

“This is truly a crucial moment to strengthen the EU’s media and audiovisual sector”, rapporteur Dace Melbārde (ECR,LV) said. “The media ecosystem was fragile even before the pandemic but the crisis has reinforced the existing challenges it faces, as well as created new ones. Audiences are increasingly shifting to digital platforms, and the income from these is disproportionally flowing to the global players. Last year, the European media sector experienced a significant drop in advertising income, which is a crucial source of revenue for media organisations. At the same time, the Covid-19 crisis has amplified
the role of quality journalism; an absence of professional and swift reporting during times of
pandemic can cost lives.”

According to early estimates, during the pandemic news media has seen its advertising revenues drop by 20% to 80%.
The EU audiovisual sector suffered a massive revenue loss – a drop of almost 70% in box office revenues for cinemas and distributors in 2020, totalling EUR 4 billion, alongside a reduction of 30% in active productions. MEPs also quote increase of production costs due to stricter health and safety measures.

EIB: €10bn AI investment gap

Brussels 01.05.2021 New EIB report: €10 billion investment gap in artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies is holding back the European Union.
Annual shortfall of up to €10 billion in investments to keep the European Union in the global artificial intelligence and blockchain. The European Union only accounts for 7% of annual equity investments in both technologies, while the United States and China together account for 80%. However, the European Union excels in research related to both technologies and has a large pool of digital talent to build on.

Today, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and European Commission published a new study on the state of play in artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies in the European Union: “Artificial intelligence, blockchain and the future of Europe: How disruptive technologies create opportunities for a green and digital economy.” The study was produced by the EIB’s Innovation Finance Advisory team in close collaboration with DG CONNECT under the InnovFin programme – a joint EIB and European Commission initiative to support Europe’s innovators.
Artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies have the potential to revolutionise the way we work, travel, relax, and organise our societies and day-to-day lives. Already today, they are improving our world: artificial intelligence was crucial in speeding up the development and production of COVID-19 vaccines, while blockchain has the potential to not only disrupt the financial system, but also help us track and report greenhouse gas emissions better, optimise commercial transport and create genuine data privacy protection. The further development of both technologies – guided by ethical and sustainability principles – has the potential to create new pathways for our growth, driving technological solutions to make our societies truly digital and greener, and ultimately keep the planet habitable.

The report launched today shows that in comparison to major global competitors, the European Union is falling behind in developing and deploying artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies. To catch up, however, the European Union can build on its leading role in high-quality research and its vast pool of digital talent.

“The real added-value of artificial intelligence and blockchain still lies ahead of us – in industrial, business and public applications. This is where Europe can catch up and even take the lead,” said EIB Vice-President Teresa Czerwińska, who is responsible for the EIB’s innovation investments. ”At the same time, we need to make sure that the development of these technologies is focused and respects our European values. We need to increase our joint efforts. To make this happen, our study shows that amongst other things, we need to invest more and faster, especially in later-stage startups. With the EIB Group, EU countries have the ideal instrument at hand to boost and scale up the development of data-driven solutions, bring excellence in research to the market and help build a greener, smarter society and thus a stronger Europe.

“AI and blockchain technologies are critical for fostering innovations, competitiveness, and sustainable economic growth. They offer unprecedented opportunities as key enablers of the digital and green transformation. It is thus essential to boost investments in both the development and adoption of these breakthrough technologies in Europe,” said Roberto Viola, Director General of DG CONNECT ,Directorate General of Communication, Networks, Content and Technology, at the European Commission.

Is the European Union keeping up in the global artificial intelligence and blockchain race?

The study shows that the highest number of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) involved in artificial intelligence and blockchain can be found in the United States (2 995), followed by China (1 418) and the EU27 (1 232). The United Kingdom is another notable player (495). Within the EU27, the highest number of companies is located in Germany and Austria, followed by southern Europe, France and central, eastern and south-eastern Europe (EU13).
For available financing, it already seems to be a two-horse race between the United States and China: together they account for over 80% of the €25 billion in annual equity invested in artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies, while the EU27 only accounts for 7% of this total, investing around €1.75 billion per year. Overall, according to the study, the estimated investment gap in artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies in Europe could be as much as €10 billion annually.

Twitter shuts microblog of Greek parliament group

Microblog social network Twitter has blocked the account of Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party , the third-strongest in Greek parliament after winning 7% of the votes, in 2015 elections.  The party also wins seats in European Parliament. According to current opinion polls, it is holding its ground among the voters, now at 6.8%. Golden Dawn is the most vehement critics of illegal mass migration and globalism, nostalgic about ‘old good days’ of Ancient Sparta.

The communication company for social networking service did not explain their decision to block the Golden Dawn account, however it was interpreted as the move to terminate activities of a political group with views unappealing to Twitter’s management.

“After Facebook, … Instagram and all the corrupt media, it was Twitter’s turn to target the party in a vulgar manner,” Golden Dawn said in response.

The party’s Twitter page was still inaccessible as of Friday, January, 6.

 

Irrespectful of the views of the Greek parliamentary group, the precedent raises questions about the powers of social network companies, which accumulated an extraordinary authority, transcending national borders to influence politics, and potentially threaten the very basis of participative democracy, when discriminating an “unfortunate” political player.

The phenomenon of social media is relatively new byproduct of Digital revolution, however its steep rise in popularity, and immense power on public opinion, has not been legally framed so far. The communication companies in ante-Digital era, providing telephone services, or mail services did not have powers to cut connection based on the content of the conversations, or correspondence neither had they right of surveillance.

The decision of the Twitter company also coincided with a declared intention of French President Emmanuel Macron to defeat ‘fake news,’  in social media by creating a new law, which  will be drafted and presented to open debate in upcoming weeks.