Investigating the Digital Future of the EU

by Ani Hakobyan

On Thursday, November 8th, the Institute of European Studies (IES) welcomed Peter Fatelnig, Minister Counsellor for Digital Economy Policy at the EU Delegation to the United States of America. Fatelnig presented his lecture “The Digital Future of the European Union – Will There be Any?” to a diverse audience of 25 that included computer science students, community members, and those interested in the inner workings of the European Union and its digital strategy. The lecture was moderated by Jekaterina Novikova from the European Commission, currently 2018-19 EU Fellow at IES.

Fatelnig’s lecture focused on the digitization of a variety of services across the European Union. He spoke about the digital single market, which he characterized as a series of actions that “systematically create safeguards for citizens for how future digital economies and societies should be functioning.” The Minister Counsellor emphasized that digital policy-making in the EU is a “precise process” and noted that although values in general vary from country to country, one theme is common: Europeans generally lack trust in digital and tech companies, and thus rely on legislation to protect themselves. In Austria, for example, seventy-seven percent of people have serious concerns about technology and digitization, Fatelnig noted.

The current EU Commission’s priority is primarily to foster job growth, and secondly to work on improving digitization, which is expected by the European people. In general, Fatelnig stressed that European policy-making aims to be “strategic” and said that it focuses on “creating favorable outcomes” for European citizens. In his words, the EU is “not a country, but a project,” dynamic and constantly moving. This means that there is always new legislation and policy affecting digitization and its impact on citizens. Examples of some programs that are being funded and implemented are developing virtual museums to give all people access to culture and history, monitoring beekeeping, and giving those living in the remote parts of the EU access to healthcare. The lecture ended on the hopeful note that Europe and the United States will continue to have good relations and work together on cybersecurity and other aspects of digitization.