24/0/3 17 March 2003
Address by Philippe de Buck
Secretary General of UNICE
The European Internet Foundation reception on
“eEurope – The Way Forward”
“Making eEurope a Reality is essential for the Lisbon Strategy to be a success”
The European Parliament - Brussels
19 March 2003
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour for me to have been asked to take the floor at this reception organised by the European Internet Foundation (EIF) in cooperation with EICTA. I take this opportunity to thank the organisers for making it possible, in particular Ms Erika Mann, Chairperson of the EIF, Mr Anthony Parish, President of EICTA and Ms Christine Diamente, Chairperson of EICTA’s eEurope Task Force.
UNICE, representing more than 16 million companies in Europe, is keen to see eEurope become a reality and even more so, a success, given that ICT and electronic communications are a powerful engine for growth, competitiveness and jobs in the EU. And, as we all know, we need this desperately today.
This issue is particularly relevant on the eve of the Spring Summit where Heads of State and governments will come together to (hopefully) take stock of the actual progress which has been made (or not!) towards achieving the goal set by the same Member States at the Lisbon Council in 2000: “to become the most dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010”. We consider this strategy the most important one for business because competitiveness is THE key for success.
Concerning the state of play regarding the overall Lisbon Strategy, and this will not come as a surprise, UNICE believes that: “Time is running out and that action is needed now”! We issued a document to this effect in December last year, highlighting industry’s recommendations on what actions are needed for the different components of the Lisbon Strategy (and I have tonight brought with me a couple of copies of this document, for those who are interested [also available on our website: ])
In addition and for the first time, each of UNICE’s member federations from the 15 EU Member States issued individual reports which identify national weaknesses and support the call for urgent action [also available on our website: ].
More particularly, concerning eEurope, what was true at the launch of the Lisbon Strategy remains all the more true today given the difficult state of the electronic communications sector: electronic communications are a powerful engine for growth, competitiveness and jobs in the EU and action is needed to consolidate Europe’s strengths in this sector if the Lisbon goal is to be met. We have still to be aware that the ICT industry is key for economic development and will still be the basis of an important industrial evolution, if not revolution.
We particularly appreciate the EICTA recommendations on “The Way Forward” for eEurope which, together with our own recommendations, demonstrate not only what needs to be done but also that industry is prepared to work with the public authorities to finally make eEurope a reality.
We welcome the European Commission’s Communication of February 2003 entitled “Electronic Communications: the Road to the Knowledge Economy” and, like the Commission, we strongly urge the Council and the European Parliament to give their support to the actions so clearly emphasised in that Communication.
The European Parliament has been extremely clear-sighted on Information Society issues and we welcome the European Parliament reports both on the eEurope 2005 Action Plan with Mr Reino Paasalina as rapporteur, and on the multi-annual programme for the monitoring of eEurope, dissemination of good practices and the improvement of network and information security with Ms Imelda Read as rapporteur.
All of these seem to be speaking the same language and heading in the right direction. Therefore, please allow me to turn my attention to the other essential players for making eEurope a reality: the EU Member States.
A lot of progress has been made towards achieving the overall objective of the original eEurope 2002 Action Plan: get Europe online. Nevertheless, a lot remains to be done: cheap, fast and secure Internet access is not yet a reality for all in Europe.
With this in mind, members of the European Council at the Seville meeting in June 2002 endorsed the eEurope 2005 Action Plan. This endorsement was particularly welcomed by UNICE since we believe that without this new action plan, setting targets to get Europe online would fail if not followed by focused and qualitative targets: online, yes, but Europeans should be online in the right conditions, and this means that there is a widespread availability of broadband, that clear rules in a secure environment are set and, more important, that SME participation in the eEconomy is fostered.
UNICE has issued some expectations before the meeting this Friday:
Member States are requested to implement the electronic communications package within the agreed timetable and to accelerate the widespread availability and usage of broadband through pursuing eGovernment.
The downturn in the economy and in particular in the communications sector calls for Member States to maintain the political impetus behind this part of the Lisbon strategy and to address in particular the ICT downturn for the benefit of the whole economy.
The 3 UNICE recommendations are as follows, quite simple but not so easy to achieve:
- Timely, concerted and harmonised implementation of the electronic communications regulatory package by July 2003
Given the responsibilities of EU national regulators, they must ensure that the internal communications market is not fragmented due to divergent interpretations. Commitment from regulators to effectively consult the relevant stakeholders in the European advisory committees is key to the creation of a level playing field. July 2003 must genuinely be considered a deadline for implementation - not as a starting point.
- Accelerate broadband usage and availability
The roll-out and usage of broadband are key to economic growth in Europe. EU market players and citizens alike will benefit from accelerated availability and usage of broadband in all EU Member States.
- Pursuit of eGovernment:
Member States should continue to develop eGovernment broadband services applications and develop digital content for on-line public services in the areas of public administration, health, education and transport. Such services must be accompanied by sufficient public-sector-driven awareness campaigns communicating the benefits of eGovernment services to SMEs and citizens, demonstrating the convenience that broadband brings to users.
To finish, I would like to reiterate my thanks to the organisers and to the members of the European Internet Foundation for providing this opportunity for the ICT industry represented by EICTA and UNICE to share this platform to voice our common message.
Thank you very much for your attention !!
EIF Reception “eEurope –The Way Forward”, 19 March 2002, Speech by Philippe de Buck, Secretary General-UNICE