The harmonisation of digital markets is one of the EU’s key policy deliverables for providing tangible results to citizens in the Eastern Partnership. EU support in this area is channelled through the EU4Digital initiative, which brings together priority actions and programmes in the field.
EU4Digital aims to extend the European Union’s Digital Single Market to the Eastern Partner states, developing the potential of the digital economy and society, in order to bring economic growth, generate more jobs, improve people’s lives and help businesses. Through the initiative, the EU supports the reduction of roaming tariffs, the development of high-speed broadband to boost economies and expand e-services, coordinated cyber security and the harmonisation of digital frameworks across society, in areas ranging from logistics to health, enhanced skills and the creation of jobs in the digital industry.
Harmonisation of digital markets through EU4Digital helps to eliminate barriers to pan-European online services for citizens, public administrations and businesses, resulting in improved online services at better prices and with greater choice. It will attract investments and boost trade and employment; existing companies will grow faster and start-ups will be created more easily, which will contribute to prevent the brain drain.
Central to the EU4Digital initiative is the three-year EU-funded EU4Digital Facility (2019-2022), which promotes key areas of the digital economy and society, in line with EU norms and practices, and communicates EU support across the digital agenda in the region. The Facility focuses its support across six key policy areas: Telecom rules, Trust & Security, eTrade, ICT innovation, eHealth, and eSkills. These areas of support mirror the six EU4Digital networks, created in 2016 and comprising representatives from the Eastern Partner countries and EU Member States.
Building up the Digital Community: a long-term priority
EU4Digital was officially launched by the European Commission at the Eastern Partnership Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Community in 2016, setting up six EU4Digital regional networks to work on priority topics.
The EU4Digital networks support the work of the Panel on the Harmonisation of Digital Markets (HDM Panel), established in 2015 at the First Eastern Partnership Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy, and bringing together stakeholders from EU Member States and partner countries, including public administrations, professional and industrial associations, regulatory bodies, civil society and financial institutions, with the aim of formulating HDM strategy, coordinating actions, and ensuring coherence at national, bilateral and regional level.
Digital Harmonisation: a key deliverable
The harmonisation of digital markets was marked out as one of the EU’s 20 Deliverables for 2020, the roadmap for delivering tangible results to citizens in the Eastern Partnership, approved at the Eastern Partnership Summit in November 2017. The 2020 Deliverables describe the digital economy as “an area with yet untapped potential for both the EU and the Partner Countries for social and economic development, as well as for the creation of growth and jobs.”
Deliverable 7 for the harmonisation of digital markets is included in the priority area of ‘economic development and market opportunities’, and states: “The harmonisation of digital markets will be fostered to eliminate existing obstacles and barriers to the provision of pan-European e-Government and e-Business services. This will result in better online services at better prices and more choice; it will attract investments and boost employment. Existing companies will be enabled to grow faster and start-ups will be created more easily.”
EU4Digital: an umbrella initiative channelling EU support
The EU4Digital initiative currently brings together the following priority EU actions and programmes:
- EU4Digital networks bringing together representatives from Eastern Partner countries and EU Member States to work on key thematic areas.
- EU4Digital Facility, a three-year programme (2019-2022), promoting key areas of the digital economy and society, in line with EU norms and practices.
- EU4Digital – Broadband strategies in the EaP region (2018-2020), a project implemented by the World Bank to support Eastern Partner countries in developing and implementing national broadband strategies.
- Upcoming EU programme on CYBER to strengthen cyber security in the partner countries and increase trust in the use of digital services.