Keynote 01 2019

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19 June 2019 | 12:20-12:45 | KING WILLEM-ALEXANDER AUDITORIUM | Video recording | Live transcription
Consolidated programme 2019 overview


  • Ms. Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society


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This text, document, or file is based on live transcription. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART), captioning, and/or live transcription are provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. This text, document, or file is not to be distributed or used in any way that may violate copyright law.

>> MAARTEN BOTTERMAN: Welcome, Commissioner. People are aware of your responsibilities for the Digital Agenda and your concerns for equality and human rights from our own accord throughout your career. And we are also very much aware that last week at the end of last week, you were specifically talking about fighting disinformation which may be part of what you want to share with us. So welcome and we look forward to your contribution.

>> MARIYA GABRIEL: Thank you very much. Thank you.

Okay. So thank you very much. First of all, ladies and gentlemen, dear representatives of the Member States, dear members of the private sector of the civil society, I would like to start by expressing my pleasure and my honor to be here with you, in this beautiful city of The Hague. And at the same time, it's always a pleasure and honor to address the European Internet Governance community.

So I would like to start by saying at the same time that for me, EuroDIG is and has been one of the most advanced digital platforms to discuss digital policy issues, but at the same time, offering precious inputs to the global IGF. So we can be proud of the progress made in the last few years. Thanks to your relentless work and commitment, the debates on the future of Internet Governance and its institutions is now high on the European and political agendas as reminded in the IGF conference last November in Paris.

What a long way we have come since the first World Summit on Information Society and the Tunis agenda in 2005. The idea that the technical community, civil society, academia and private sector all have a role to play in the governance of a core infrastructure like the Internet was really groundbreaking. This idea is now mainstream, however, having been right once, it's not enough. We need to be lucid about current and future challenges on the concrete implementation of this multi-stakeholder principle.

So ladies and gentlemen, 14 years after, we are indeed entering a new phase.

A new phase where a synthesis is possible between historical oppositions, opposition between the multi-stakeholder model, and the multilateral approach, between bottom up and top down, between a purely market-based approach and state intervention. Indeed, I believe a synthesis that's not only possible but also much needed.

The entire digital landscape has radically changed since 2005. By then, the Internet can only 1 billion users, mostly western countries, but nowadays more than half of the world's population is online, three times more people than in 2005. But more importantly, we are still far from achieving the initial promises of an open, free, and decentralized Internet and new issues have become quite prominent. Trust is lacking. Some powerful online platforms have developed into gatekeepers and holders of our data. The digital divide still exists for key online services like e-health, e-Government, or online financial services, and the quest for privacy and cybersecurity are far from being guaranteed.

And increasingly, the development of Internet is raising fundamental political and ethical issues about human agency, trust, inclusion, fairness, sustainability, or even mental health problems linked to digital addiction. Besides the management of the core Internet resources and infrastructure.

Tackling these issues will require political decisions by a domestic and international regulations. But more than ever, cooperation is needed to foster a convergence of approaches and to combat the fragmentation of the Internet. Digital cooperation will also be paramount as a global public good to achieve the sustainable development goals, to ensure the security of online interactions, to guarantee privacy, and to control personal data, would rebuild trust in technology that is eroding fast, and to prevent that digital technologies are used to exploit, oppress and control.

In this context, what should be our immediate response to these challenges? First, I think that we should strongly support an evolution of the multi-stakeholder models towards more efficiency. The lack of a clear agenda is and time to go outcomes and the key stakeholders, including governments and private sector, as well as insufficient funding are key issues that need to be urgently addressed.

Here, I would like to take the opportunity to welcome the work realized by the UN high level panel in their report, "The Age of Digital Interdependence" submitted to the UN Secretary General Anthony Gutierrez. In particular, I would like to highlight as report stated that all perspectives from all stakeholders are taken into account. We need a broad diversity of voices around the table, including in particular the developing countries.

Yes, the highly anticipated conclusions of the panel confirm that digital has now become mainstream and has permeated all aspects of societies. We also know through interest the three architectures proposed in the report and these are thought-provoking models that can guide future work to make Internet Governance more efficient and more effective. This debate is not new and we at the European Commission have always made it clear that we support a more empowered Internet Governance Forum with the great role for governments, to better reflect the increasing role of digital regulation and to align actors' behaviors and interests.

Personally, I have already put forward a set of concrete proposals to improve the IGF with three key points. Building a strategic multiyear program, with a view to agree on shared principles and norms on key policy issues.

Second, giving a stronger role to the national, regional initiatives, not only in terms of capacity building and awareness raising, but also in the elaboration of shared normed and principles. And third, ensuring a stronger involvement of Internet innovator, to inform the policy debates and work on practical solutions to policy issues.

This is our proposal for more effective Internet Governance Forum. And they could be tested in the current configuration, and quickly implemented without needing a perform and in parallel, with the ongoing debate on the preferred model for Internet Governance.

The second response, we must focus on technology governance. Cutting edge digital technologies such as artificial intelligence or blockchain will not only change the way the Internet works. They will bring the digital transformation to another dimension. They will shape our economies, our societies, and individuals themselves.

This comes from a simple fact, technology is not value-free or value neutral. On the contrary, it is permeated by the values. Its developers incorporate or fail to incorporate in the design of technologies, interfaces or software. And all of these questions are central for our future and I think that we can agree, they are highly political.

Indeed, this is about choosing the type of society we want to live in. Do we want a society that is at the service of people or a society where people are manipulated by digital actors with the help of artificial intelligence and big data? Do we want a society that protects children or a society that overwhelms them and addicts them? Do we want a society where companies is competition or a society where businesses operate on a level playing field?

These are critical questions for our common future and Europe's approach to answer them is different from some other approaches. And I think that we can be proud of Europe, because we are certainly the first to raise these issues, and to put forward a comprehensive approach with an attempt to ensure that innovation is driven by an ethical, sustainable and human centric Internet.

The European Union has not shied away from its responsibility, and we did not hesitate to regulate digital technologies and services, whether our values, such as privacy, security, openness, or fairness were at stake. And make no mistake, the development of Internet regulation is only at its beginning. The events of the last few years, be they attacks by malware, the legal use of the personal data of user of social networks, the increase of legal content and the violence online, or the dissemination and the spread of false information remind us that self-regulation of the Internet has clear limits.

Of course, we should look forward not backwards and bring innovation into our policy making. Emerging technologies roll normative approaches to policy and regulation. To this end, we support the experimentation of new, more holistic ways of doing policies in the Internet era. In particular, by better articulating different policy instruments, from innovation policy and co-regulation and regulation. New approaches can be tested in particular at the local level, with the help of regulatory sandboxes. We also think that policies can be made effective and innovation friendly without losing legal certainty.

But beyond regulation, we have established soft governance mechanism in the form of multidisciplinary and multi-stakeholder expert groups, which will provide guidance for us as policymakers. In this way we have two examples. On the one side, this kind of group already have a great result. It's about the ethics guidelines on artificial intelligence and the other one, it was the launch of the international association for trusted blockchain.

We consider the multi-stakeholder expert groups as pioneers of this innovative approach which could be replicated on the global Internet Governance scene bringing experts from many different fields to the table, together with governments, online providers and civil society.

So multi-stakeholder and multidisciplinary policy formulation are needed to address the wide range of societal challenges raised by digital technologies. And to Europe, we will continue to work to develop international partnerships with like-minded countries, covering innovation actions, regulatory alignment, for example in the field of data protection and Internet governance.

This is why we as a European Union, we already had -- we already put in place several dialogues with third countries, because the aim is very clear, to enhance our cooperation on digital matters and to see how we can really shape this digital transformation together. We already have some important common initiatives with the Mediterranean regions and Sub-Saharan African and yesterday I participated in the European development days and that was a great occasion to popularize the reports of the digital task force. I'm one of the cochairs, but another important region for me is Western Balkans. We already have a very good cooperation with them, especially in the framework of the southeast. And we work on Internet Governance. We have really to continue to promote this regional cooperation.

And this, naturally takes me to the third response. We need to look for words and build on Europe's leadership. I'm deeply convinced that Europe has a fundamental role to play in the coming years, leading the way towards a new approach for Internet Governance, based on inclusiveness, effectiveness and relevance.

An approach that promotes our fundamental values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.

There is a clear opportunity ahead of us. The next European Commission will be in a position to take a clear and strong position in the face of the significant challenges that exist in this field of Internet Governance. Concretely, this could be the basis for a meaningful European contribution in response to the important issues raised by the UN Secretary General's high-level panel on digital cooperation. This is where I also see a fundamental role for EuroDIG and its community.

So we have work on specific topics and to contribute together to a European response to the UN high level panel report. This approach needs to be expanded to allow EuroDIG to feed on ideas and proposals in the global discussion. I strongly encourage the community to bring this to work and further explore such mechanisms in the future. Focusing each time on the most pressing issues for the digital policy.

So ladies and gentlemen, we have no time lose. Digital is moving fast. And we need to set up the mechanism for an efficient cooperation at global level. So let's build on the declaration of interdependence of the UN high level panel which highlights how digital developments will largely depend on our joint commitment towards a shared vision of a sustainable, fair, inclusive, and equitable future. And it's the next IGF in Berlin, we can launch this movement here in Europe, and let's do it together. Let's continue our joint efforts to put our European values at the heart of global Internet Governance agenda.

Let's be inspired here in The Hague by the motto of The Netherlands. As the expression of our common determination to ensure that new freedom and possibilities enabled by the Internet are supporting and not undermining the heritage of the enlightenment and our common European fundamental values.

You can count on our full support to do so. Thank you very much.


>> MAARTEN BOTTERMAN: Thank you very much, for your good words. Thank you for putting people first. I think you will find people in the room that will support that and your goal is in very good hands. We will take it forward from here and we hope to see you at IGF as well.

>> MARIYA GABRIEL: Thank you. You can count on my support. Thank you.


This text, document, or file is based on live transcription. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART), captioning, and/or live transcription are provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. This text, document, or file is not to be distributed or used in any way that may violate copyright law.


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