Commission updates EU countries on digital diplomacy initiatives
The European Commission briefed national representatives about the progress and priorities of the most significant partner countries in the digital domain.
Thibaut Kleiner, the EU digital department’s director for international affairs, gave an update about the policy outreach with third countries on Tuesday (18 April) at a meeting of the Telecom Working Party, a technical body of the EU Council of Ministers.
The presentation, seen by EURACTIV, covers the ongoing discussions of the Trade and Technology Council (TTC) with the United States and India, respectively, and the digital partnerships with Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Canada.
The European Commission and US administration are due to gather for the fourth high-level meeting of the TTC on 31 May in Luleå, Sweden, the country that currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU Council.
The presentation states that the main points on the agenda will be strategic discussions on sustainable trade, cooperation on emerging technologies and economic security, talks with the industry on digital infrastructure, the Trade and Labour Dialogue, and stakeholder engagement.
According to a source informed on the matter, the dialogue on labour is particularly pushed by the American trade unions, historically hostile to trade agreements. Domestic agendas are set to loom large on the summit, with key elections scheduled for next year on both sides of the pond.
For the Commission, the expected deliverables of the meeting are clustered around the topics of emerging technologies, such as standardisation, AI and semiconductor cooperation, connectivity like 5G and infrastructural projects in third countries, and human rights in the digital environments, notably in relation to platforms and foreign interference.
The EU executive needs to show some concrete results after nearly two years of transatlantic dialogue.
Asked by national representatives for their reaction to a recent letter from leading MEPs calling for an international summit on ‘very powerful’ Artificial Intelligence, the Commission acknowledged the request but said no commitment could be made at this stage.
“Don’t expect anything surprising,” an EU official told EURACTIV.
On the model of the EU-US TTC, the Commission launched a similar platform with India in April 2022 “to provide a framework for operationalizing political decisions, coordinating technical work, and reporting to the political level for implementation and follow up.”
The Commission gave an update on the three working groups ahead of the first ministerial meeting that will take place on 15 and 16 May in Brussels.
The cooperation is focused on the fields of high-performance and quantum computing, AI, standardisation, digital skills, interoperability and security of digital public infrastructures.
The EU-Japan summit is expected on 3 and 4 July, dates marked as ‘to be confirmed’.
Here the EU priorities lay in Research and Development (R&D)collaboration for semiconductor technologies, with the view of strengthening the resilience of this strategic supply chain through joint monitoring. An R&D partnership is also envisaged on 6G.
Cooperation in the high-performance computing field is also mentioned. The EU wants to achieve mutual access to respective supercomputers, create links among the research community and collaborate on quantum-powered satellite communications.
The Commission also referred to Arctic connectivity, which relates to a submarine cable revealed by EURACTIV that would connect Europe to Japan via the Arctic, avoiding the Suez Channel bottleneck. The expensive project has so far fallen short of gaining the support of the US and Canada.
In addition, the Commission aims to promote EU data governance, operationalise the Data Free Flow with Trust initiative and finalise the trade negotiations on data flows.
The tentative date for the meeting between Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton and South Korean Minister for ICT and Science Minister Lee Jong Ho is set for 30 June.
Unsurprisingly, semiconductors feature at the top of the agenda as the Asian country is one of the world’s top chip producers. The Commission wants to promote investments from Korean industrial players and push for cooperation on high-end chips.
Regulatory convergence also seems on top of mind, especially regarding the EU’s Digital Services Act, Digital Markets Act, and AI Act.
The Commission also wants to exchange about “a fair and proportionate contribution to connectivity infrastructure by all players,” referencing the ‘fair share’ proposal for which telecom operators point to South Korea as a model to follow.
Moreover, the presentation mentions research cooperation and developing a common vision for emerging technologies like AI and 6G to build a common vision in international standardisation fora.
The partnership also involves research exchanges on super- and quantum computing.
The digital partnership with Singapore was kicked off in February. The Commission’s priorities include pilot projects on digital identities, exchanges on AI governance and standards, and sharing best practices for SMEs’ digitalisation.
The EU executive wants to upgrade the ongoing Digital Dialogue with Canada into a partnership focused on AI, R&D, connectivity and cybersecurity.
[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]