Support for the digital transition is at the heart of the priorities for cooperation with the EU’s Eastern partners in the years to come, outlined in Post-2020 Eastern Partnership priorities released on 2 July.
The agenda is based on the five long-term objectives, with resilience at their core, as defined for the future of the Eastern Partnership in March 2020. It will be underpinned by a €2.3 billion Economic and Investment plan in grants, blending and guarantees, with a potential to mobilise up to €17 billion in public and private investments. The EU’s proposal will contribute to the discussions on the future Eastern Partnership policy including at the Eastern Partnership summit planned for December 2021.
The comprehensive agenda aims at increasing trade, growth and jobs, investing in connectivity, strengthening democratic institutions and the rule of law, supporting the green and digital transitions, and promoting fair, gender-equal and inclusive societies.
The proposal includes the top ten targets for 2025, which have been selected in order to mark clear commitments in all the priority areas of cooperation. As regards the digital transformation of the EaP, the top ten target is:
- High speed internet: at least 80% of households have access to affordable high-speed internet with a particular focus on gender equality, bridging the urban-rural divide, and social inclusiveness.
Other important targets for 2025 in this area include:
- International roaming: reduce retail prices for international roaming in the partner countries by at least 80%, by applying the Regional Roaming Agreement, (due to be signed in 2021); continue to explore possibilities for a common international roaming space between the EaP countries and EU Member States.
- Secure 5G networks by alignment with the EU coordinated approach, taking proportionate, appropriate and risk-based security measures for 5G networks and services and freeing frequency bands for mobile operators. The Regional Spectrum Agreement among the EaP countries (due to be signed in 2021), will be applied in full.
- e-Governance: at least 80% of public services to be available online through interoperable platforms; at least four EaP countries with mutually recognised digital signatures between each other and with the EU, with 30% of documents transferred cross-border being digitally signed; at least four digital transport corridors are operational complementing the TEN-T network, with 30% of logistics documents transferred cross-border being digitally signed.
- Digital economy and innovation: increase cross-border e-commerce with the EU by 50%; digitally empower one million EaP citizens through the creation of a digital education platform; invest €100 million to stimulate digital innovation and support high performance digital start-ups, and contribute to the creation of related high-quality jobs.
- Cyber resilience – cybersecurity: put in place institutional, policy and legislative cybersecurity frameworks in all EaP countries, compatible with EU legislation and guidelines; introduce the ENISA cyber threat landscape methodology in all EaP countries; promote further alignment with EU and international data protection standard.
In addition, digital transformation is present throughout other priority areas, such as supporting SMEs to pursue the digital transition, supporting the digitalisation of education and training, as well as digital skills for young people, investing in Research and Innovation, and support for digital tools and e-health services.
Backing up this focus on the digital transition, the Economic and Investment Plan will mobilise potential investments of up to €1.5 billion to develop and upgrade broadband internet infrastructure (optic fibre, mobile systems), in particular in remote and rural areas, to reduce the in-country digital divide. The EU will also support the development of ecosystems for digital services.
Through the Digital Innovation and Scale Up Initiative (DISC), the plan will invest a further €100 million to stimulate digital innovation and high performance digital start-ups and contribute to the creation of related high-quality jobs. The DISC will also strengthen the EaP ecosystem for nurturing start-ups and improving access to finance capacity (Seed, Business Angels and Venture capital). The uptake of free and open data and services of the EU space programmes Copernicus and Galileo will provide further impetus for digital start-ups and enable locally-tailored solutions and applications.
The new agenda, also proposes a revision of the EaP multilateral architecture to adjust the framework to the new priorities and make it fully fit for purpose.
The regional economic and investment plan will support post-COVID socio-economic recovery and long-term resilience, taking into account the ‘build back better’ agenda. The plan outlines priority investments and defines a set of flagship initiatives, which have been jointly identified with the partner countries, in view of their priorities, needs and ambitions.
The proposals will be discussed with partner countries, EU Member states, civil society and other key stakeholders in view of the 6th Eastern Partnership Summit in December 2021.
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