Statement by Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation on behalf of the EU at the Pan-European Regional Preparatory Conference, Bucharest 7 - 9 November

November 8, 2002

Copenhagen, 07 Nov 2002

Check against delivery.

Statement by Mr Helge Sander Danish Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation on behalf of the European Union

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen

I am here today to present the vision of the European Union and its member States for the Information Society. And, to contribute to the further process towards the World Summit in Geneva in 2003 and in Tunis in 2005.

I also have the pleasure to represent the views of Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Turkey.

But before I continue, I would like to present our warmest thanks to our Romanian hosts for their hospitality.

I would also like to commend the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe on their efforts in helping to organise this Pan-European conference.

Let me also mention the efforts of ITU, UNESCO and other parts of the United Nations system concerning the World Summit on the Information Society.

Ladies and Gentlemen

The Information Society is already at the core of the policies of the European Union.

This was clearly stated by the European Council in Lisbon in 2000: The Information Society should be used as a tool to strengthen economic reform, social cohesion and to create more and better jobs.

This is now reflected in a number of major initiatives:

The eEurope 2002 Action Plan was adopted in 2000. The aim is to make Europe the most open and competitive economy of the world.

The Action Plan is already a success. And, we are aiming even higher with the new eEurope 2005, which was adopted by the European Council at the meeting in Seville earlier this year.

Benchmarking of national initiatives is an integrated part of eEurope 2002. We will work even more on this part of the process, when implementing the eEurope 2005 Action Plan.

Let me also mention the new regulatory framework for electronic communications. This package will deliver a better deal for consumers. More competition will be brought into the market. We will have greater transparency and legal certainty for all players.

A specific program for research in Information Society Technologies - IST - was adopted under the Fifth Framework Programme.

The recent adoption of the Sixth Framework Programme also includes an IST Programme, which will run until 2006.

The Information Society dimension is also taken into account in a number of other European policies.

This can for example be seen in the policies for Regional Development and Structural Funds, Trade, Development Co-operation, Economic Co-operation, and Employment.

Ladies and gentlemen

Important lessons could be drawn from previous experiences. These lessons should be used to spread the positive benefits of the Information Society on a broader scale.

In the European Union, we have focused on the creation of an appropriate regulatory environment for financing infrastructure and for affordability of services. We have done this to allow for the development of dynamic markets and for the intervention of private sources for funding.

A competitive environment will keep prices down. At the same time, universal service obligations ensure a defined minimum service affordable for all.

Now, we foresee specific provisions for electronic payment and e-commerce in order to build up confidence and facilitate secure transactions.

The European Union is contributing to the preparatory process of the World Summit on the Information Society on the basis of a rich and diversified knowledge of e-strategies.

Both the European Union and member States have concrete experience when it comes to dialogue, policies and international co-operation. We co-operate closely with the United Nations system on many issues.

The European Union co-operates with its neighbours as well as other regions of the World on making progress within the Information Society.

An example of this is the eEurope+ initiative. The aim is to accelerate economic reform, to encourage institution building, to improve competitiveness, and to provide for actions, which suit the specific situation of the EU Candidate Countries.

Another example is the Northern eDimension Action Plan, NeDAP. This Action Plan offers a platform and a tool to accelerate the transition to the Information Society in the Northern Region. It will establish a closer co-operation with Russia, an important neighbour to the European Union.

Let me also mention that programmes for development of the Information Society have been introduced in Latin America as well as in the Mediterranean area and Asia. Moreover, an initiative to support the development of the Information Society in African countries is currently under preparation, in addition to already ongoing bilateral activities by member States.

Well-defined goals, effective mechanisms and concrete political commitment for follow-up are crucial for the success of all such programmes.

Ladies and gentlemen

The World Summit should deliver a political message to the World. And, develop a common vision and understanding of the Information Society. These tasks were given to us in the mandate from the General Assembly of the United Nations.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights sets out the right to freedom of opinion and expression including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. We will work for an Information Society where all citizens - without distinction of any kind - should be able to fulfil these freedoms through any media regardless of frontiers.

This vision will only become a reality, if we agree on a core of broad principles. A sound basis for policies, rules, and other measures.

The UNECE countries could start by agreeing on the following principles:

We should respect the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas.

We should promote universal access to basic services at affordable cost.

We should secure linguistic and cultural diversity as a common human heritage.

We should promote human capacity through education, training and skills.

We should set up an enhanced enabling environment, including legal, regulatory and policy framework.

We should work on bridging the digital divide between the less developed regions and our part of the World, as well as in our own societies.

But we also need to be more ambitious than this. The mandate from the General Assembly invited the World Summit to draw up a strategic plan of action for concerted development towards realising this vision.

Here we have to overcome any scepticism in the context of the difficult financial situation for the sector. How do we make the World Summit on the Information Society a starting point for actual action and not just a rhetorical exercise?

The Bucharest Conference should along with the other regional conferences give an essential contribution to the preparation of the World Summit on the Information Society. I would like to welcome a constructive discussion of the following themes:

A global e-Government initiative, including more efficient delivery of public services.

A global e-Security initiative to address security of networks and data.

The fight against illegal and harmful content.

Innovative partnerships between the public and private sectors. This could include the providing of ICT goods and services at affordable costs.

Programmes for scaling up locally successful projects. Issues should include e-health and e-learning as well as e-content and e-entrepreneurship in developing countries.

Research and development of ICT focused on the World?s low-income markets.

Opening up the ICT markets in developing countries. This includes the setting up of the necessary legal framework and commitment to attract and secure stability of both foreign and domestic direct investment flows.

Ladies and gentlemen

Let me finish by repeating that all stakeholders should have appropriate opportunity to contribute to this process. The goal is to reach conclusions that can be supported by all.

If we achieve this, the World Summit could be a starting point for new perspectives for wealth and for creating new solidarity among the different parts of the global Information Society.

With these words, I wish for the best outcome of this conference.

Danish Presidency Website

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