The EU and its eastern neighbours agree the way forward towards a Digital Community (18/10/2016)

Brussels, 18 October 2016


Günther H. Oettinger, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society and Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for the European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations today hosted a ministerial level meeting on the Digital Community with the partners of the Eastern Partnership.

Once in place, the Digital Community will deepen cooperation between the EU and its eastern European partners in the digital economy and society. It aims to deliver the benefits of the Digital Single Market (DSM) to the EU's neighbouring countries, bringing economic growth, generating jobs, improving people’s lives and helping businesses.

At today's meeting, Ministers in charge of the Digital Economy and Society from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and the Slovak Republic representing the Presidency of the Council of the EU, continued discussions on deepening their collaboration on digital issues. Representatives of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank, ICT associations and civil society from the partner countries were also present.

The main item on the agenda is the presentation by the European Commission of EU4Digital regional networks which will work on jointly agreed priority topics: telecom rules; ICT research, startups and innovation; digital skills; trust services and e-Identification (eIDAS); cybersecurity and eTrade, which includes eCommerce, eCustoms and eLogistics. These networks would serve as platforms for sharing best practices and experiences among eastern European partners and with the EU, promoting synergies and developing joint projects.

As a next step, the EU4Digital networks will develop cooperation roadmaps for the period 2017-2019 in their respective thematic areas, focusing on concrete and achievable deliverables, which aim at improving the life of citizens and the competitiveness of businesses. The proposed roadmaps, as well as preliminary achievements, should be presented in the 2nd Eastern Partnership Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy to be held in early summer 2017.

Commissioner Oettinger said: "The 72 million consumers of the eastern European partners are also stakeholders in the success of the Digital Single Market. I am convinced that our common vision of a Digital Community and our common commitment to invest in the digital economy and society will result in significant mutual benefits and bring our citizens and businesses closer to each other." (see full speech).

Commissioner Hahn underlined: "The Digital Community will open new opportunities for citizens and business on both sides, through improved digital governance, better connectivity with and across the region, and intensified people to people contacts. To give a concrete example: we have now a commitment to work towards a harmonised framework for e-commerce, which will allow an online and protected access to goods to consumers across the eastern partnership"


Today's meeting builds on the progressmade since the first Eastern Partnership Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy in June 2015. Commissioner Oettinger discussed the idea of launching a Digital Community with Ukraine's Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, senior politicians and key representatives of Ukraine's digital sector during his visit to Kyiv in July 2016.