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Speech on Digitalisation at Euronest Economic committee

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Gunnar Hökmark’s speech to the Euronest Economic committee, where he comments the report ”Facilitating digitalisation to improve efficiency and stimulate economic growth in the EU and Eastern Partnership countries” which Gunnar Hökmark is the rapporteur for.

Mr Chairman, dear colleagues,

Digitalisation has become a mysterious mantra for something that some people think is about to happen. It is not. Digitalisation is a process of societal change that has been a reality and a moving force for development since the 1990-ies. It is not a vision, but a reality, with many opportunities. It has happened, it is happening, and it will proceed. Nations and economies that wants to develop sovereignty and prosperity needs to face the challenge.

We have seen before how the plurality of media and information undermined dictatorships and paved way for freedom and liberty. Social media enabled peaceful revolutions. Being connected made it possible to be at the centre of economic development, science, knowledge and entrepreneurship.

But we have also seen the vulnerability of complex systems, be it power grids, telecom, intelligence and party headquarters. Cyberwar has become a war in peacetime, but just as serious and dangerous as the conventional ones.

There are some lessons learned.

First, a leading economy must be part of the digital transformation. Otherwise, you are out, out of knowledge, out of markets, out of productivity, out of the cycle of innovations and out of participation on all levels and in all centres for development.

Second, it is not a matter of being the most sophisticated, but about having the capacities and capabilities of broadband, fixed and mobile, allowing companies, entrepreneurs, researchers and individuals to be the most sophisticated in their segments of the market, their branch of the industry, their community of research and science and their movements for information.

Third, we are vulnerable to those with the same knowledges and capabilities who want to harm us. Today, anyone can attack another country without visibility, but doing the same harm as bombs. Power grids, banking systems, financial markets, transports, media and public administration. It is crucial to set the highest standards for security and for anyone who wants to be in the lead, and stay there.

Fourth, it is sometimes said that digitalisation is replacing jobs. That is wrong, but to some extent right. Digitalisation replaces some jobs but creates new opportunities for more jobs, by increasing competitiveness, by developing new services, products and markets, by creating new demands. It is not a coincidence that the most digitalised countries and economies have the highest growth and the best development of jobs and employment. Those who loose remain in the back, fearful of the change. The only thing we need to fear is fear of change.

In all these areas, we can do a lot together.

Expanding the telecom markets and pan-European services across the borders of the EU to the Eastern partnership countries. Creating the market preconditions to make it possible to phase out extra costs for roaming and surf. Facing up to hostile cyber activities, increasing cybersecurity, countering disinformation and safeguarding robust systems for modern infrastructure. Creating more transparency by digital systems, thereby hindering corruption and money laundering.

We can do a lot together and we can do a lot better together. Looking forward to the discussion and to the joint development of this report.