Digital Brief: Mastering Innovation

The Digital Brief is Euractiv's weekly tech newsletter.

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“We don’t want to be dependent on imports of crucial technologies.”

 – Lucilla Sioli, Director of Artificial Intelligence and Digital Industry, DG CONNECT.


Mastering Europe’s innovation. The Commission is keen on fostering President von der Leyen’s commitment to securing Europe’s technological sovereignty by increasing the bloc’s capacity to develop and produce the key enabling technologies of tomorrow, and fending off the influence that third-country supplies have on European markets. Speaking at the European Parliament’s Knowledge and Big Data Innovation summit today, hosted by the Knowledge4Innovation platform, Lucilla Sioli, director of Artificial Intelligence and digital industry at DG CONNECT, said the EU should not just “depend on technologies coming from other parts of the world.”

“There are technical reasons, together with the complexity of our geopolitical context that really call for us to be able to develop a lot of these key technologies,” she said.

“It’s not a matter of being protectionist,” Sioli added, however, saying there are sound economic reasons for Europe taking a driving seat in the development of next-generation products, including AI technologies. “On the one hand we have to be champions in using them and on the other, we have to be champions in producing.” When pressed by EURACTIV however, Sioli would not reveal any of the finer details about the Commission’s forthcoming AI strategy, to be presented within the first 100 days of von der Leyen’s new term.

Staying with AI, Dave Keating gives us an overview this week as to the direction the EU’s future strategy in Artificial Intelligence and Ethics may pursue. Also, check out a series of video interviews conducted with panellists who participated in a recent EURACTIV event on ethics in AI. Interviews feature new European Data Protection Supervisor Wojciech Wiewiórowski, Digital Rights Activist Jennifer Baker, Senior Policy Analyst at Center for Data Innovation Eline Chivot, and Kristof Terryn, Group Chief Operating Officer, Zurich Insurance. Elsewhere, the UK’s data protection watchdog has released new guidance on the coming AI revolution.

5G. Earlier this week, EU ministers adopted conclusions concerning the security of 5G technology, stressing that any approach to 5G cybersecurity should be comprehensive and risk-based, while also taking into account ‘non-technical factors’.

EURACTIV’s pan-European network of European journalists went away to find out a bit more about the state of play in EU member states. What we learned was hardly surprising: 5G is now an intrinsically geopolitical issue. Europe’s alliances with either the US or China will inform the future rollout of a technology that is still attempting to shake off a series of other concerns, including the risk that 5G may have to citizens’ health. Read the full report here.

Greek-China alliance. Staying with 5G, earlier this week I caught up with Greece’s new Digital Minister, Kyriakos Pierrakakis. We spoke about Greece’s geopolitical relationship with China in the context of the provision of next-generation telecommunication networks, as well as Greece’s digital objective for the coming years. Read more here.

NATO. There’s plenty of 5G news this week. According to NATO representatives, the London declaration adopted this week implies common efforts to ensure the security of communications, including new 5G mobile phone networks, in connection with which Washington has called for a ban of Chinese equipment from the world’s biggest telecoms gear maker, Huawei. “I do think it’s a security risk, it’s a security danger,” US President Donald Trump said in response to a question on Huawei, although the leaders’ declaration did not refer to it by name.

“I spoke to Italy and they look like they are not going to go forward with that. I spoke to other countries, they are not going to go forward,” he told reporters referring to national contracts with Huawei. EURACTIV’s Alexandra Brzozowski has more.

ePrivacy. On Tuesday, Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton told the Transport and Telecommunications Council that the EU’s executive branch will “have to put a new proposal on the table” because of a lack of commonality between member states. However, speaking to journalists after the meeting, Breton downplayed what he had said to EU ministers, but admitted that all options were on the table with regards to this divisive piece of legislation. Read more here.

Europe’s push for smarter cities. Europe’s digital transformation in urban environments must adopt a ‘human-centric’ approach. That was the key message from Ilona Raugze, director of ESPON, as part of a recent seminar in Helsinki. ESPON is responsible for advising EU policymakers on territorial development policy and so has substantial influence in driving the future direction of policy with regards to Europe’s smart city network. “Cities must join forces, work together with businesses, academia, civic society and, above all, citizens,” she informed EURACTIV.

Smart city ventures are currently scattered all across the bloc, but ESPON recommend a more harmonised approach that could also mobilise rural areas. They have included the results of their research in a recent policy brief, “Digital Innovation in Urban Environments.”

Council meetings. A series of Council working parties gather today to discuss a range of tech issues, including groups on Information Exchange and Data Protection, Cyber Issues, Telecommunications and Information Society.

Facebook renews regulation call. An ideological ‘fight’ is tacking place worldwide between those who want to restrict open access to the Internet and those who want to maintain a free and open web within necessary regulatory frameworks, Facebook’s Vice President for Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, told Brussels reporters earlier this week. The former UK deputy prime minister said on Monday (2 December) that rules are required so that the company could relinquish the burden of being the “umpire of political speech online,” which he says would be “an astonishing arrogation of power to a private tech industry.

Data Protection. EEA Data Protection Authorities and the European Data Protection Supervisor convened for their 16th plenary session yesterday. Among other discussion points, the group adopted draft guidelines on “the Criteria of the Right to be Forgotten in the search engine cases under the GDPR.” Also yesterday, the Finnish data protection watchdog ordered Finnkino Oy, a Finnish film distributor and the biggest cinema chain in the country, to revise its privacy policy amid concerns over enforcement of privacy rights and the practice of email marketing. Along this axis, Reuters reported earlier this week that EU antitrust regulators are investigating Google’s collection of data.

Caruana Galizia murder. A cross-party group of MEPs concluded a fact-finding mission to Malta yesterday, following recent developments in the investigation into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The delegation of MEPs were led by Renew’s Sophie in ‘t Veld and met the Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and other government officials, as well as the police, judicial authorities, the opposition, representatives of civil society and journalists, and the family Daphne Caruana Galizia.

A statement from the delegation said that the MEPs remain “unconvinced” that Muscat has acted judiciously in the last few weeks, in the context of the decision to remain in office until mid-January.

“We came to Malta with deep concerns, and we leave not reassured. The rule of law under pressure, impunity for crimes, widespread corruption, journalists intimidated and harassed, the right of assembly thwarted and politics descended into toxic bi-partisanism,” in ‘t Veld said, at the close of the delegation’s visit.

Cybersecurity for Cloud. As the EU attempts to boost its clout in the field of its cloud services infrastructure, the bloc’s cybersecurity agency, ENISA, has announced that a candidate cybersecurity certification scheme for cloud services is in the works.

CO2-tracking satellites. Current Earth observation technologies are not accurate enough when it comes to monitoring carbon dioxide emissions, according to delegates at the EU’s space week in Helsinki. A new system set to launch in 2025 should change all that, EURACTIV’s Sam Morgan reports.

Digital Tax. The European Commission wants to settle the latest trade dispute with the US over the French digital tax “amicably” but warned that the bloc will “react as one” if Washington slaps tariffs on Paris, EURACTIV’s Jorge Valero reports this week. The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said yesterday he would back plans to impose greater levies on the digital giants, despite having to balance finely his diplomatic relationship with the US, in the run-up to the UK’s general election on 12 December.

‘Paperless’ Commission. In a move which provoked some understandable sarcasm online, von der Leyen chaired her first College meeting yesterday, which DG DIGIT described as ‘moving towards a paperless and fully digital College.’ There was still plenty of paper on display.

Lobbyists commence. Just as the ribbon was cut on the new von der Leyen Commission, lobbyists jumped on the bandwagon in a bid to get their policy messages across. In the tech sector, a new policy briefing from the Center for Data Innovation, published this week, put forward recommendations in areas such as fairness in online platforms; online hate speech and disinformation; privacy, competition, and innovation; and European competitiveness in emerging digital technologies.


On my radar.

Andrea Jelinek, chair of the European Data Protection Board’s appearance in Parliament’s Civil Liberties committee next week. She’s expected to talk about the recent initiatives discussed in the EDPB plenary this week, as well as field questions from MEPs on status of the ePrivacy file.  


What else I’m reading this week:


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