Sunday

17th Dec 2017

Focus

Estonia sees digital summit as success in itself

  • EU leaders met for dinner In Tallinn's Kadriorg Palace ahead of Friday's summit. (Photo: Consilium)

EU leaders are convening in Tallinn on Friday (29 September) to discuss their visions for the digital future of Europe.

One challenge for Estonian prime minister Juri Ratas, chairing the meeting, will be to make the debate concrete enough.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • The debate will take place in the Tallinn Creative Hub (Photo: EU2017EE Estonian Presidency)

The idea of the summit is to take a look beyond election cycles and to find a way for Europe to "stay ahead of the digital curve", according to Klen Jaarats, an advisor to Ratas.

"We hope to get a shared understanding from EU leaders on where do we want to be by 2025," said Jaarats, who is the prime minister's director for European Union affairs.

Estonia, which initiated and is organising the summit, has prepared a background paper, which includes questions to be discussed, such as:

"What steps are needed to make the EU the best platform for the digital economy?"

"How can we nurture a highly-skilled workforce and digitally literate citizens? "

"How can cybersecurity serve as an enabler for trust and confidence in a free and open internet and society?

"How can we bring governments and the public sector into the digital age?"

While the Tallinn digital summit will be more focused than regular EU summits in Brussels, the four questions already highlight the broad nature of the theme.

Broad theme

The presidency wants to stay away from discussing specific legislative files aimed at creating a digital single market.

That also brings the risk of a discussion derailing and going off-topic, or of leaders only speaking in very general terms.

But a source close to the presidency said that some leaders will come to the discussion "with concrete points".

The summit takes place in the same month as the four biggest eurozone countries, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, proposed a new way to tax internet companies.

It also follows a speech by French president Emmanuel Macron, which included many ideas, including on the digital revolution.

"Let us create within two years a European agency for innovation ... to be in the position of innovator and not of follower," said Macron, calling for additional spending in research on for example artificial intelligence.

Some of the summit's guests may echo the same sentiment.

Finnish cyber security professor Jarno Limnell will give a speech before the leaders' working session.

Earlier this week, Limnell told a Swedish-language Finnish newspaper that Europe should rely less on American internet companies.

"The level of self-sufficiency … must be strengthened properly," he told Vasabladet.

A second guest speaker, James Manyika, leads the McKinsey Global Institute, a private sector think tank.

Earlier this year, he co-authored a study which said that in the five largest European economies - France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK - there were over 60 million full-time jobs that were "associated with automatable activities".

National powers

Digital skills and how to adapt to an increasingly automated world is likely to be referred to in the debate.

However, while leaders may discuss it, it is unlikely that they will want European solutions for all these issues.

"A lot of issues are national responsibilities, like skills, like unemployment, like funding infrastructure for the digital society," said Jaarats.

"Europe can set the framework conditions support the achievement of these goals and the leaders need to deliver," he added.

Success

Unlike regular summits in Brussels, the digital conference will not yield a written declaration or conclusions. Instead, Estonian prime minister Juri Ratas will brief the press afterward, together with European commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council president Donald Tusk.

In the coming weeks, Estonia will write a report summarising the debate.

But with all leaders having committed to attending, the digitally minded Estonians have already managed to shape the discussion.

"In a way, the fact that the summit is taking place is already a success," said Jaarats.

Estonia tests water for own virtual currency

Following the success of cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, some in the Baltic nation propose introducing their own version for their e-residents. But what about the euro?

EU leaders impatient with digital rules, leak says

'Despite considerable progress, work in this area needs to be accelerated in order to meet this deadline' of finishing the digital single market by the end of 2018, leaked draft conclusions of next week's summit said.

Column / Health Matters

Digital health has potential but needs to be secure

There is a certain irony when governments profess to be digital health leaders, while IT infrastructures in hospitals still use long-forgotten versions of Windows.

Supported by

News in Brief

  1. EU adopts 'track-and-trace' tobacco system
  2. Luxembourg appeals Amazon tax decision
  3. EU leaders agree to open phase 2 of Brexit talks
  4. Juncker: May made 'big efforts' on Brexit
  5. Merkel took 'tough' line on Russia at EU summit
  6. EU leaders added line supporting 'two-state' solution
  7. EU leaders agree to 20 European Universities by 2024
  8. Belgian courts end legal proceedings against Puigdemont

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  2. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  3. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  4. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  5. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  6. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  10. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  12. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties

Latest News

  1. Catalonia, Brexit, and Uber on EU agenda This WEEK
  2. Macron and Merkel take tough line on Poland
  3. Eurozone future needs structural reforms, EU leaders told
  4. Showdown EU vote on asylum looking likely for next June
  5. EU stresses unity as it launches next phase of Brexit talks
  6. Polish PM ready for EU sanctions scrap
  7. Dutchman to lead powerful euro working group
  8. EU mulls post-Brexit balance of euro and non-eurozone states

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  2. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  3. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  4. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  6. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  7. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  8. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  9. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  10. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  11. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  12. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives