Towards Europe's digital sovereignty

The EU summit focuses on returning to a fully functioning single market

Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel on their way to the press room on Friday, 2 October.

As the European economy is facing currently a deep recession due to the pandemic, despite the swift policy response, on Friday, at the special summit in Brussels, EU leaders focused on how to strengthen the resilience of the Union.

The main accent was on returning to a fully functioning single market as soon as possible, making the EU's industries more competitive, increasing their autonomy, and accelerating the digital shift.

Such vibrant approach is important as the EU economy is forecast to contract this year by 8.3%, the euro area economy - 8.7% and respectively projected to grow next year by 5.8%  and by 6.1%.  This contraction is profoundly uneven in different EU countries.

We are setting our ambition high: digital sovereignty and this means a truly digital single market, defining our own rules, making autonomous technological choices, and developing our own digital solutions, EUCO President Charles Michel told the press after the summit.

He also pointed out that the EU can only be strong on the international stage if it has a resilient and innovative economic base. The exceptional recovery package, adopted in July, will help transform our economies and, along with the green and digital transitions, will support us achieve these ambitions, he stated.

Talking at the press conference, EC President Ursula von der Leyen praised the fact that the leaders decided to devote time to the collective response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The epidemiological situation is worrying, so we must stay very focused to avoid a return to the dire situation we experienced last Spring, she said adding that both the pandemic and its consequences can be overcame if Member States and EU institutions work together.

According to her, progress on vaccines is the key to a long-term solution to this crisis. We are making good progress, the Commission has already concluded two advanced purchase agreements, and it is negotiating five more and we are in discussions with four more companies, she specified.

Leaders agreed on strictly implementing and enforcing the Single Market rules, in line with the Commission’s plan, removing remaining unjustified barriers in the area of services, and refraining from creating new ones.

They shared the opinion that the European competition framework should be updated in a way that it could meet the challenges of the green transition, the digital transformation, and the evolving global context.

Clear rules for economic operators and support innovation, including in the digital sector is what they want this framework to provide.

In their conclusions heads of state and government set that building a truly digital Single Market will provide a home-based framework allowing European companies to grow and scale up.

On the digital transition, Europe clearly needs to ‘up its game', EC President stressed. She outlined the three priorities of Europe's Digital Decade, starting with the industrial data.

“The quality of this data and the quantity will quadruple in the next five years and we need to enable companies to harness this potential. At the moment being, 80% of these industrial data are never used once,” von der Leyen said.

 She also put emphasis on the tremendous potential of artificial intelligence. “We think that you should be able to do many things in the digital topic here in Europe, with your European identity – from paying taxes, to renting a car, you name it.”

The infrastructure was the third important task she marked, stating that 40% of people who live in rural areas still do not have access to fast broadband.

This is why we will focus our investments on secure connectivity, on the expansion of 5G, 6G and fibre, the EC President said mentioning as well that 20% of Next Generation EU recovery package will goon the digital. “It is about Europe's digital sovereignty,” von der Leyen highlighted.

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