Wednesday

24th Jan 2018

Interview

Nordic-Baltic digital market 'no threat to EU'

  • Nordic-Baltic digital single market is complementary, not a threat to, that of the EU, said Norwegian state secretary Chaffey (Photo: Tom Hansen / Innovasjon Norge)

The Nordic-Baltic digital cooperation is not an alternative to the EU's digital single market strategy but an added value, said Paul Chaffey, state secretary at the Norwegian ministry of local government and modernisation.

"Nordic cooperation is sometimes looking for new challenges," he told EUobserver in an interview, in the margins of a digital presidency conference organised by the Ceps think tank in Brussels last week.

"We thought, with Estonia in the EU presidency and us in the Nordic presidency, we could use that as an opportunity to … lift it on the political agenda, and see what can we do in practice together, our countries, to realise the digital single market," explained Chaffey.

Norway in 2017 held the annually rotating presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers, an intergovernmental cooperation forum consisting also of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Aaland, Faroe Islands, and Greenland.

Denmark, Finland, and Sweden are also EU members, while Norway and Iceland take part in many of the EU's single market legislation through the European Free Trade Association (Efta).

Estonia, which makes up the Baltics with Latvia and Lithuania, meanwhile held the six-month Council of the EU presidency, which it used to portray itself as a pioneering digital nation and share what it saw as best practice approaches towards digitisation.

Last April, the Nordic and Baltic countries came together in Oslo and signed a declaration saying that they wanted "to show the way for digitalisation of Europe".

But Chaffey explained that this did not mean that the EU's overarching digital strategy is dismissed.

"The EU is doing a fine job," he said about the legislative push towards more harmonised rules on digital affairs.

"What we want do is add value on top, and do things in practice, that have to do with border controls, that have to do with free movement of data, and if the EU catches up, that's a fine thing, because we might have been able to show the way in some areas," said the Norwegian politician.

While the EU sets the goals, the implementation of policy is in the hands of the national governments of member states.

The idea behind the Nordic-Baltic cooperation is to do the implementation in unison.

"The EU is on a multinational level and doesn't invest in the IT platforms in individual countries. A lot of these areas are a national responsibility. Education, health care are examples of that," he noted.

He gave as an example that students from one Nordic country in another could benefit if government databases are linked so that they can access health or municipal services.

Geo-blocking

The regional cooperation could also take steps on some files where the EU has been unable to progress, such as geo-blocking of audiovisual media.

In many cases, it is not possible to stream sports events or watch certain online films or series from another EU country.

"We have the same debate that's going on in the rest of Europe there," said Chaffey.

In particular citizens in a country like Finland, with a Swedish linguistic minority, could benefit from the lifting of geo-blocking of Swedish content, for example.

"There are these cases of minorities, who might be very interested in what's going on in another country, or you have communities of immigrants that you have to cater for in some way, and the rules and regulations don't do that," said the Norwegian.

"There are loads of sand that can be put in the machinery because there are commercial interests – legitimate interests: people have to make a living from what they create."

He noted that making rules in the digital world is "fairly complicated" and that Norway as a small country depended on the EU for a long-term solution.

Chaffey added the Nordic-Baltic cooperation would not lead to an increasingly multi-speed Europe.

"This doesn't have to do with legal status or legislation. It has to do with something that's normal, usual in other areas as well, that some countries are moving a bit further ahead when it comes to the practical, the technological solutions."

Analysis

Suddenly, digital single market doesn't 'need' EU agency

EU digital commissioner Gabriel downplayed the rejection of the commission's plan for a strong EU telecommunications watchdog, highlighting that the elements of the digital single market are not set in stone.

Trump says US could stay in Paris deal

President Donald Trump hinted that the US could 'conceivably' stay in the Paris climate change agreement, during a meeting in which Norway's PM pointed out the sales of US-made Tesla electric cars in her country.

Opinion

Iceland: further from EU membership than ever

With fewer pro-EU MPs in the Iceland parliament than ever before, any plans to resume 'candidate' membership of the bloc are likely to remain on ice, as the country prioritises national sovereignty and a more left-wing path.

Supported by

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Free AlllianceNo Justice From the Spanish Supreme Court Ruling
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  3. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersOresund Inspires Other EU Border Regions to Work Together to Generate Growth
  5. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Calls on EU to Sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Expel Ambassadors
  7. Dialogue PlatformRoundtable on "Political Islam, Civil Islam and The West" 31 January
  8. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  9. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  10. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  11. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  12. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit

Latest News

  1. Lessons for EU from the Greek tragedy
  2. A new dynamic on the Macedonia name issue
  3. Berlusconi in Brussels on pre-election charm offensive
  4. ECJ should rule against Austrian online censorship lawsuit
  5. EU states loosen grip on tax havens
  6. Facebook promises privacy reboot ahead of new EU rules
  7. Europe is lacking tech leadership
  8. Spitzenkandidat system here to stay, MEPs warn capitals

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted
  2. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  3. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  4. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  5. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  6. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  7. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  8. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  9. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  11. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  12. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City