Digital technologies play an increasingly important role in our economies and societies. The pandemic highlighted the importance of promoting safe and effective digital solutions for a more accessible, more equal and inclusive world. In parallel, as the international and security context is becoming even more complex, new digital technologies are increasingly a driver of geopolitical competition and barometer of global influence, and are being used by foreign actors to threaten the security and integrity of the EU and its Member States, to manipulate the information environment and to interfere in democratic processes. The EU approach to the digital transition is firmly anchored in its commitment to multilateralism and the promotion of universal human rights and fundamental freedoms, the rule of law and democratic principles.

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HR/VP Josep Borrell on EU Digital Diplomacy

Digital issues are no longer just technical matters. They are the battleground of technology, of values and narratives.

- HR/VP Josep Borrell's remarks on EU Digital Diplomacy at the Foreign Affairs Council, 18 July 2022

Council Conclusions on EU Digital Diplomacy

The Council Conclusions on EU Digital Diplomacy adopted on 18 July 2022 spell out in detail the principles underlying EU Digital Diplomacy, its objectives and a series of steps required to make it a reality.

This implies systematic and coordinated use of the network of EU Delegations and Member States’ diplomatic representations to work with third countries, international organisations as well as the multi-stakeholder community, conveying EU positions and strengthening reporting on technology policy issues.

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    Digital Technology (Envato)

EU digital policy developments

Over the past years, the EU has taken significant steps along the “Path to the Digital Decade”. The Data Governance Act and the proposed Data Act aim to boost the use of data as a driver for innovation and growth, while the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act are setting the global pace in responding to the regulatory challenge posed by platforms. The Standardisation strategy strengthens the ability of the EU to remain a global standard-setter, the European Chips Act will see the EU strengthen its position in the global semiconductor value chain, and the Space package includes a proposal for building an EU space-based global secure communication system. The Artificial Intelligence Act has proposed the first-ever legal framework on AI, which addresses the risks of AI and positions Europe to play a leading role globally.

The EU’s Cyber Diplomacy Toolbox and the EU Cybersecurity Strategy is being implemented, including through the political agreement on the revised Network and Information Security Directive, and the upcoming Cyber Resilience Act to bolster Europe’s resilience against cyber-threats, as well as by advancing the EU vision of a global, open, stable and secure cyberspace in multilateral, regional, bilateral and multi-stakeholders engagements.

While strengthening its internal digital policy toolbox, the EU has acknowledged the role of digital in its common foreign and security policy including with the adoption of the Strategic Compass, which provides a vision for EU security and defence for the next years, and sets out a number of measures to support the EU’s ability to carry out an active foreign policy, while the Defence package includes a Roadmap on critical technologies for security and defence.

The EU is working to ensure global tech giants operate on a level playing field, and meet their responsibilities within and beyond the Union, and to better integrate new technologies in the overall EU security architecture. The opening of an EU office in San Francisco in September 2022, reinforces the EU’s ability to engage with the Silicon Valley-based tech sector.

Multilateral engagement

The EU, with the full involvement of the Member States, is developing tailored approaches to build coalitions and strengthen cooperation in and with the UN system, the G7, the OSCE, the OECD, the WTO, NATO, the Council of Europe and other multilateral fora, as appropriate, including multi-stakeholder organisations and particularly in standardisation bodies, in which coherent and harmonised European standards play an influential role.

The EU and its Member States also coordinate on common positions on strategic elections and appointments at the relevant multilateral bodies. The elections in September 2022 of Doreen Bogdan-Martin ( US) as the new International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Secretary General,  and Tomas Lamanauskas (Lithuania) as the ITU Deputy Secretary General, both officially supported by the EU, provide an example of a successful European coordination to agree on common support for candidates.

In line with the EU Digital Diplomacy goals, the EU is supporting the process around the UN Secretary- General’s “Our Common Agenda” report, as well as the Secretary General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, where the EU, in coordination with the Member States, will work with the UN Tech Envoy and contribute to the preparation of a Global Digital Compact.

Building bilateral Digital Partnerships and enhancing regional cooperation

The EU is developing an ambitious network of bilateral and regional partnerships. This includes over 20 digital and cyber dialogues with partners from all over the world.

  • The EU-US Trade and Technology Council  has become the bedrock for transatlantic cooperation on global technology based on shared democratic values.
  • The EU-Japan Digital Partnership will advance cooperation on digital issues to foster economic growth, facilitate digital trade, and a human-centric digital transformation based on common values. The EU-Republic of Korea Digital Partnership will foster joint work on semiconductors, next generation mobile networks, quantum and High-Performance Computing, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, platforms, data and skills. Further Digital Partnership is being discussed with Singapore.
  • A Trade and Technology Council is also being established with India.
  • Ambitious digital trade rules are being negotiated in the free trade agreements with Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and India.

On the regional level, the EU has set up a number of initiatives to both promote regional cooperation among partners and to increase the level of cooperation between the region and the EU, strengthening the influence of the EU around the world. These actions can be complemented by the Team Europe (TE) initiatives.

As part of its support for the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),  the programming of the Global Europe: Neighbourhood, Development & International Cooperation Instrument now foresees up to EUR 6 billion of EU funding available for cooperation in the digital field.

Together with the Economic and Investment Plans for the EU Neighbourhood, this will endow the EU with the financial capacity to develop digital economy packages that support a human-centric digital transformation in its partner countries around the world, such as the one announced with Nigeria in the context of the Global Gateway Africa-Europe Investment Package. This funding will be implemented in a Team Europe approach, under the Global Gateway banner, allowing for a closer match between the needs of our partners and the EU’s strategic interests, and supported by innovative tools such as the Digital for Development (D4D) Hub.

The EU supports African countries to use the opportunities of the Open Internet model (The Open Internet as cornerstone of digitalisation).

Building a Reliable and Human-centred Future for the Internet

In April 2022, the EU, the US, and dozens of international partners endorsed a Declaration for the future of the Internet, setting out the vision and principles of a trusted Internet. Partners support a future for the Internet that is open, free, global, interoperable, reliable and secure and affirm their commitment to protecting and respecting human rights online and across the digital world. So far, 60 partners have endorsed the Declaration, including all EU Member States, and more countries are expected to follow.

The Declaration for the Future of the Internet is in line with the rights and principles strongly anchored in the EU and builds on the Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles that the European Commission has proposed to co-sign together with the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union.

The EU has considerably strengthened its commitment to promote and protect human rights on the digital sphere in line with the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy (2020-2024) which has a dedicated chapter on digital and human rights. The EU is actively engaging in the UN fora, including at the Human Rights Council, and through its bilateral diplomacy channels, such as Human Rights Dialogues, to call all States to combat internet shutdowns, arbitrary or indiscriminate digital surveillance and data privacy breaches and to protect human rights defenders online.

 

Homeschooling Asian little young girl student (Envato)

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