Thu. Sep 21st, 2023

Brussels, 11 October 2022

“Check against delivery”

Dear Ambassadors, dear colleagues,

Thank you very much for inviting me today. It’s a true pleasure to be with you and finally meet in person, after two very long years.

There is no doubt that the global order, as we knew it, is increasingly being contested. Digital technologies are being used as a powerful weapon for destabilisation. We are seeing it blatantly in Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. The Kremlin is using every available technology to infiltrate or disrupt networks, to misinform and spread toxic propaganda, attacking our democracies and the core values of Europe.

As such, digital technologies are now at the core of geopolitics. We are witnessing a growing systematic rivalry over digital governance, and a struggle between the US and China for global leadership. This tech race is here to stay. And it’s completely remapping global supply chains, alliances and global governance.

The open nature of the internet is being challenged by autocratic models of digitalisation, which use technology as means for indiscriminate surveillance and social control, and where citizens become data sources for the advancement of the state.

Our positioning in this global context is firm and clear. We are sovereign, but not equidistant. All our initiatives, our investments as well as our efforts to regulate the digital world, are guided by a core principle: to promote a human centric model of digitalisation. One that is based on the dignity and integrity of the individual.

As when we engage abroad, we must stand with all those that align with these core values.

Our work is well underway. This summer, the European Parliament and the Council reached a political agreement on our Digital Decade policy, which sets ambitious targets for Europe’s digital transformation by 2030. This is key, because our ability to exert global influence in the years to come will greatly depend on our technological advancement. And also, our success in delivering our 2030 targets will be much linked on how we interact with partners around the world.

But before I enter more into the details, let me first remind the key principles of our approach:

We will continue to promote open, competitive digital economies. Our openness to the world has brought enormous benefits to European businesses and citizens alike and we must uphold it. But this openness cannot be unconditional.

We have had a hard awakening into the era of weaponised interdependence. Some say we were naïve. I do not think so. I think we were just greedy. We now see the stark limits of a production model based on cheap Russian energy and cheap Chinese labour. It served us well and we knew what we were doing, we just wanted it too much. And now, we must take the lessons learned.

This means that our openness must be balanced with reducing our strategic dependencies, avoiding single points of failure, and boosting our own capacities in key technologies. This is what we are doing for instance through the European Chips Act, or our upcoming investment in six quantum computers.

In addition, to uphold innovation we must ensure that markets are fair and contestable. The Digital Markets Act, that will enter into force already next month, sets landmark and ambitious rules to this end. Together with the Digital Services Act, we are leading the way in setting global standards.

For open markets we need trust in technology, which means ensuring the cybersecurity of our digital products and networks. This is why some weeks ago we proposed the Cyber Resilience Act, which sets new rules for common cyber security standards for all digital products in our Single Market. Again, this can become a global model.

And we must uphold our fundamental rights to make sure that technology serves the people, not the other way around.  In the next months, we hope to have finalised negotiations for world’s first legal framework for ethical and trustworthy Artificial Intelligence.

All these principles guide our action both at home and abroad. Because privacy and the freedom of expression are universal values enshrined in the UN Charter.  We have a duty to uphold them in all we do, and in particular in the multilateral system. In this sense, I’m delighted with the result of the recent election of the leadership of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).It shows that when we act united, and coordinate with our like-minded partners, we can hold real sway globally.

We are setting up a growing web of bilateral digital partnerships with countries around the world.

First, let me highlight our relationship with the United States. The EU-US Trade and Technology Council, which was launched a year ago, has already proven its value as a forum to address global challenges based on common values. We are building transatlantic convergence on many technological fronts, such as standards  -including on AI-, connectivity investment or supply chain resilience. At our next meeting we should deliver tangible outcomes in these areas.

We are also increasing our engagement with other like-minded countries . In May, we launched our digital partnership with Japan and agreed on several priorities, including semiconductors, 5G or data. In the coming months, we will also establish partnerships with South Korea and Singapore and launch a Trade and Technology Council with India.

We are working to bridge the digital divide in developing and emerging countries in a way that upholds fundamental rights. Because many countries, are too often presented with cheap digital infrastructure which however comes at a grim cost, in terms of surveillance, stifling of freedoms or personal data extraction. We have seen countries where literally the faces of the entire population have been given away in exchange for technology. This is too high a cost. In these regions, we are seeing how the autocratic model of digitalisation is spreading fast.

To confront this trend, as you know, in December last year, we set out the Global Gateway to boost our links with partners across the world, with a focus on Africa and Latin America. 10% of its 300 billion euros will be dedicated to digital infrastructure. These investments will be linked to improvements in governance frameworks to promote an open, plural and secure internet. Earlier this year, I announced in Nigeria a first digital economy package worth 820 million euros. Other packages will follow.

Digitalisation brings us all to eyes level. Countries with less legacy can now leapfrog into new applications and technologies and tech-savvy younger populations are finding new ways to deliver social progress through digital tools. We should be humble as there is much for us to learn out there too.

Dear colleagues, in this global technology race, digital has become the new way of speaking about human rights. Take it on board, make it part of your core tasks as diplomats. Do not ignore it because it sounds technical or complicated. We have a duty towards human rights, and that is a matter of the heart. One should not ignore matters of the heart.

Thank you very much for your time.

Source – EU Commission


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