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EU Tech Alliance SecGen warns: We are moving away from a truly single market, the cornerstone of European competitiveness, if we have 27 national fragmentations of EU rules

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© EU Tech Alliance

Interview conducted by Robert Lupițu

Europe’s tech companies need a single set of rules with one interpretation, not 27 national interpretations, and their voice to be taken into account at EU level, says Victoria de Posson, Secretary General of the European Tech Alliance, the umbrella organisation representing Europe’s leading tech companies providing innovative services to 500 million users. In an interview with CaleaEuropeană.ro in the context of the adoption of the manifesto on the future of Europe’s digital policy, Victoria de Posson says the tech industry wants to ensure that Europe becomes competitive by adopting a European strategy for tech companies, having a European approach and listening to the voice of the industry.

“European, national and regional measures should complement each other, not clash or duplicate efforts. (…) The ink was not even dry on the Digital Services Act (DSA) when some EU countries added extra layers of regulation at national level,” said the European Tech Alliance Secretary General.

Victoria de Posson warned that if “particular emphasis is not placed on avoiding national fragmentation where EU legislation exists”, then “we are moving further away from a truly single market, which is the cornerstone of European competitiveness”.

According to the industry, the European strategy for tech companies should unlock “the power of data as a key lever for innovation, while respecting consumer privacy”.

The EUTA Secretary General also insisted on smart regulation and fair competition.

“We need one set of rules with one interpretation, not 27 interpretations. Ultimately, we need to ensure that this interpretation takes place consistently. We need more cooperation between Member States,” said Victoria de Posson.

Full interview:

CaleaEuropeană.ro: First of all, Victoria de Posson, the Secretary General of the European Tech Alliance, thank you for this interview for Calea Europeană. We know that you published on the 27th of November a bold and forward-looking manifesto on EU digital future by 2030. According to the manifesto in terms of geopolitical and economic instability, you are saying that promoting homegrown tech businesses has never been more central and more important to achieve the European Union’s wider goals. First of all, what are the main key points of this manifesto? What drives it forward?

Victoria de Posson: The first point is to ensure that competitiveness is achieved in Europe. We keep talking about it. It’s now time to strengthen it, and each that competitiveness in Europe in the next five years. We suggested three approaches to reach this competitiveness.

First adopting a European strategy for Europeans tech companies.  For instance, we need to unlock the power of data to allow European tech companies to use data in a privacy friendly manner. Another example would be to help them attract talents like developers.

A second point is adopting a European lens. It comes through harmonization and adopting a European approach when looking at markets including for merger and acquisition.For instance, you can be a big player in Romania, but still a small one at European level. When authorities are looking at merger and acquisition, we invite them to take a European perspective.

A third point is to ensure that European tech companies’ voices are taken into consideration when EU rules impact them. For the moment, laws are often developed with a few stakeholders in mind and do not always consider their impact on European companies.It’s critical to  consult European companies more in the future.

CaleaEuropeană.ro: So the three points are strengthening Europe’s competitiveness with  a European strategy for European technology, prioritizing smart rules and a better enforcement of regulations in order to have fair competition.

Victoria de Posson: The three points that I mentioned were part of the competitiveness chapter: Develop a European strategy for European tech companies, adopt a European lens and bring in the voice of European tech companies.

The second chapter is on smart rules: We need to make sure that the rules are properly enforced, and that they have enough time to be enforced before being reviewed. When new rules are created, a good impact assessment is needed to make sure that they will fit with the existing legislative landscape. There cannot be overlaps or clashes with other rules. The new rules should be problem-based and adapted to the business models and not go for a one-size-fits-all approach.

The third chapter is about enforcement for fairer competition. EU rules should be enforced properly, and in a fair manner. For instance, national authorities should be as strict with their national champions as with international companies. Another point would be to have a consistent interpretation of EU rules. We need one set of rules with one interpretation, and not 27 interpretations. Lastly, it must be ensured that this interpretation happens consistently. We need more cooperation between the member states.

CaleaEuropeană.ro: Since you mentioned the smart rules section, how do we define smart rules in this endeavor, because you also mentioned the overlapping of legislation? Do you feel, as an entity that represents digital players in Europe and tech players in Europe, that there is a clash between the idea of having smart rules and the overlapping of norms? And can you give us an example where the overlap affects your members?

Victoria de Posson: What we mean by giving time for enforcement, is to make sure that when the law is adopted, it has enough time to reach its objectives before it’s assessed. For instance, we see that the EU commission is now reviewing its consumer framework with the EU consumer law refit. The omnibus Directive is partially reviewed while it only started to apply in May 2022. In such a short timeframe, it will be difficult for the Omnibus Directive to reach its objectives. So before reviewing rules, we need to give the market time to produce the intended effects, especially when a few member states are late to implement the new law(s).

When it comes to making sure that the rules are properly assessed, we must make sure that we have a good mapping of what works, what doesn’t work and of potential overlapping rules. New rules need to be based on strong impact assessments which are evidence-based and representative of the whole European continent.

When it comes to avoiding overlapping rules: European, national, and regional measures should complement each other, not clash or duplicate efforts. The ink of the Digital Services Act (DSA) was not even dry when some EU countries added extra layers of regulation at national level, such as the French law for online influencers and the proposed bill to secure and regulate the digital space. There must be a strong focus on avoiding national fragmentation where EU laws exist. Otherwise, we are moving further away from a truly single market that is the cornerstone of European competitiveness.

CaleaEuropeană.ro: And how can the European Union balance on that because we know that we have this big idea over our head that we are the main regulator feel, we are the pioneers of inventing and creating norms to make it more easy but also more difficult at the same time. So how can we balance this?

Victoria de Posson: It’s very important to say that rules are not bad. We are proud of Europe’s ability to invent rules: Making sure that consumers are well protected, maintaining the rule of law, and having transparency laws. With size comes greater responsibility. Now, the challenge is to enforce the rules on every actor in the same manner. Whether a company is based in Europe or not, as long as it targets European consumers it has to comply with EU rules.

CaleaEuropeană.ro: Since you mentioned the competitiveness, I want to ask you two ideas that I noted. What are the key elements that should be included in this European strategy for taking competitiveness to address the needs in the private sector? This is the first question and the other one: what is the role that we envisage for the public private partnership should play in this European tech strategy?

Victoria de Posson: In the European strategy, we would, for instance, need to unlock the power of data as a key lever for innovation while respecting consumer privacy. Privacy enhancing technology, like pseudonymization should be further promoted by European lawmakers to empower European companies to use data in a privacy friendly manner. We need to make sure that EU companies can use data in a privacy friendly way, allowing them to grow and remain competitive.

Another example is to make sure that EU companies are still attractive. Today, European tech companies’ resources are taken by compliance. Sometimes, it is assumed that this compliance consists of a few lawyer, but actually compliance means several developers implementing the law, instead of improving interfaces, services, products or consumers’ experiences. For a developer, it’s not the most interesting task to do. It’s very important to ensure that developers are still willing to work for European tech companies.

To your second question about improving the public private partnerships: One way would be to involve companies in the early stages. When policymakers consider new initiatives, they must have a good understanding of what currently exists, of the good and the bad practices. Sometimes, laws are created against a certain company or against a certain practice. These practices are not always representative of what’s happening in the market. Policymakers should have a better understanding of what’s happening on the grounds and of the good practices that are in place. It would help them create better laws.

When the proposed EU rules at in the hands of co-legislators, we have seen new services being added in the scope with no impact assessment for these new services being added. For instance, the rules on distance marketing of financial services were aimed at financial services. However, the co-legislator extended the scope.

It would have been better to have a good impact assessment and understand the impact of such an extension before making it law.  When it comes to enforcement. We believe that lawmakers should have the right resources to understand how innovation and technology works.

CaleaEuropeană.ro: You touched some ideas on retaining talent. So, we need a European tech strategy. We also need digital skills. I’m also speaking for Romania which is a very good IT country. Looking at the DESI index, we have a lack of digital skills. We are winning on the rules field, but we are losing the battle for hearts, minds, and creativity with other global markets. So how should the European Union address all these challenges to retain talent, and also keep top tire professionals here in Europe within the technological sector?

Victoria de Posson: First, we should not have a limited reading of digital skills. It’s not only coding or about developers. It’s a lot bigger than that. We have to make sure that we attract all talents and all digital skills. Second, we could improve the visa policy to attract talents from abroad, making it easier for digital talents to access the Schengen area.

CaleaEuropeană.ro: And one last question. We understand that this manifesto is a part of an ongoing debate for the future of digital Europe by 2030 and there can be no good debate without the public sphere. So what are your expectations after this manifesto from the EU institutions, the Commission, the Parliament, the Council, considering also that 2024 will be an election year so we will have a lot of overlapping movements from this mandate to the next one.

Victoria de Posson: In terms of procedures, we know that the institutions are busy finalizing the files until February, more or less.

After February, as of March, they will be more focused on what’s upcoming. For instance, the upcoming Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU will reflect on how to improve the Commission’s operations.  It will be quite interesting to see what is coming out from the Belgian Presidency. Another aspect is what the services of the Commission are preparing for the next Commissioners.

And of course, from the Parliament side, the future members of the European Parliament are looking at what should be done and what could be improved over the next few years.

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Romanian Space Agency and University Politehnica of Bucharest, joint workshop dedicated to identifying innovative solutions and facilitating partnerships between public and private actors in the fields of cybersecurity and space

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© ROSA

The Romanian Space Agency (ROSA) and the National University for Science and Technology Politehnica Bucharest, with the support of the EU Cybersecurity Competence Centre (ECCC), organised on Wednesday, 20 March, a workshop on “Cybersecurity and Advanced Space Technologies”, to explore innovative solutions and to stimulate strategic actions, as well as to facilitate the forging of partnerships between public and private actors in the fields of cybersecurity and space.

The workshop hosted by the National University for Science and Technology Politehnica Bucharest was held in a hybrid format, with the participation of representatives from academia, ROSA and ECCC, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of National Defence, the National Cyber Security Directorate, but also from the private sector, with companies such as certSIGN, Thales, CS Group Romania, Eviden or AROBS, which are active in the digital transformation, big data, encryption, software solutions development, electronics and cybersecurity markets.

The discussions, open to stakeholders from the industry, research sphere, academia and students of the National University for Science and Technology Politehnica Bucharest, focused on current trends in advanced space technologies, in particular on redefining and strategically strengthening the cyber resilience of critical infrastructures and services in space taking into account lessons learned from large-scale incidents on Earth; the role of technological innovation in preventing and countering cyber risks and threats, as well as managing future challenges and exploiting opportunities to create robust defence mechanisms.

Also, Romanian companies with a tradition in the IT&C field highlighted tangible results achieved for the development and innovation of the field and for the extension of technological solutions to the space domain, as well as the partnerships established with public and private stakeholders, both at national and European level, aimed at researching and developing innovative technological solutions for civil and military applications.

Finally, discussions also focused on the collaboration between the cybersecurity and space domains, with an emphasis on identifying the most appropriate pathways for cooperation between the two industries to address common cyber risks and challenges, e.g. based on a risk assessment model or through a cyber security operations centre serving entities in a common administrative area.

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Csaba Borboly, President of Harghita County Council and CoR rapporteur, supports the introduction of an infringement procedure against EU countries that do not seriously consider compensation for damage caused by large carnivores to livestock or crops

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© European Union / Fred Guerdin

Csaba Borboly, president of Harghita County Council and rapporteur of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) for the draft opinion on ”Biodiversity protection and coexistence with large carnivores in Europe – challenges and opportunities for local and regional authorities”, supports, among other things, the introduction of an infringement procedure in European legislation against countries that do not take seriously the compensation of damage caused by large carnivores to livestock or crops.

At a local dialogue organised by Harghita County Council and the CoR on 8 March in Miercurea-Ciuc, Csaba Borboly discussed the need to strengthen EU action for a European policy on large carnivores, underlining the transnational nature of the issue of harmonious coexistence with these animals and calling for sustained efforts at European, national, regional and local level to find new ways for the sustainable and safe coexistence of farm animals, humans and large terrestrial, marine and flying carnivores.

Borboly stressed that dialogue with the European institutions is essential to promote these concerns at the European decision-making level. In addition to ongoing negotiations with the European Commission and the European Parliament, he said, regional and local authorities must be actively involved in the process of developing specific solutions. He also stressed the importance of supporting politicians who back these initiatives and underlined the desire to create a platform at the regional level in Harghita County to develop specific solutions.

“With the report, we are in permanent negotiations with the representatives of the European Commission, here I am referring first of all to the Directorate General for Environment where there is a department for biodiversity, and, besides, to the European Parliament where we try to support with arguments the work of the MEPs who support us, and at home we would like to achieve the creation of a regional platform for large carnivores in Harghita County in the framework of the new European platform for large carnivores, where we can elaborate specific solutions. We also hope that the Government and Parliament will consider these things, and in parallel, there are several analyses and studies on what is not working and how we could improve things, and we are trying to formulate amendments to the legislation. Then we go further to the European Union level, where we have the opportunity to present the report when there are preparatory discussions for the decision-making act, then we can regularly present it at the European big platform meetings and at several public policy debates. Now we have Hungary coming up for the EU Presidency in the summer and if the Hungarian Presidency finds the issue important enough to put it on the agenda, then we will most likely have better results. These are the directions we can take”, said the President of Harghita County Council, CoR rapporteur.

He also highlighted the need for a more coherent and coercive approach at the European level in terms of compliance with biodiversity conservation and habitat protection legislation. He stressed that the lack of enforcement levers in international legislation makes it difficult to implement and comply with these rules, insisting on the need to find effective ways to monitor and sanction Member States that do not fulfill their obligations.

“As I said, on many levels we are moving forward and so far we have been able to solve many things at home, for some we have also had political decisions and regulations, for others we have not. I don’t follow that path – what would happen if we didn’t do anything? – we are moving forward. What has changed from the previous report is that we have included a provision saying that it is not okay if a Member State does not take citizens’ problems seriously. There is a new element in this report, to see if we get support from Brussels to launch an infringement procedure against those states that are not serious about providing compensation and solving the whole problem. Because I have worked with many ministers here, all of whom were well-meaning, but somehow in Parliament, here and there, on the stairs of the Academy, some things got bogged down, not all of them, but some of them, and we see that if there is infringement for waste management and everyone takes the position of the righteous, the mayors are fined for things they did not do, or for waste dumps that were there for who knows when; if there is infringement for air, for water, then we need this infringement procedure on this subject too. I believe that the international legislative framework is not complete here, and there is no coercive leverage. We have levers, what species are protected, and how to protect them, but for Articles 14 and 16, for habitats, for ensuring they are respected, for ensuring that human life and health come first, we do not have any levers. This is why I am saying this, when we also have elections for the European Parliament and this is why I wanted to have this debate and I hope that the two representatives of the RMDSZ in the European Parliament will take up this issue”, explained Csaba Borboly.

Finally, Borboly expressed the hope that through sustained efforts at European level and the active involvement of local and regional stakeholders, it will be possible to find appropriate solutions to a complex problem such as the harmonious coexistence of humans, domestic animals, and large carnivores, thus contributing to the conservation of biodiversity and the protection of the interests of local communities.

“The mills are working slowly to solve this problem. Let’s hope that the Environment Ministry and Brussels will be more courageous on this issue. At the moment I don’t see a better solution for this, than just to work together, to collect data, because I see that things are getting simpler ‘to shoot or not to shoot’; if we stick to this it all gets bogged down. If we simplify things to protected-unprotected status again, things get stuck again. There are many facts that people don’t know because we don’t have data. We know how many birds there are at European level, but we don’t know how many bears, and we could list the rest of the things, the compensation, etc. In 2028 the new funding period starts at the EU level, there will be a lot of opportunities, but there is no point in going for separate money for large carnivores then because it is late. Now a solution is being prepared and at these events we attend I see that many geese beat a pig and somehow we have to put our opinion forward in the European Union”, concluded the President of the CJ Harghita and CoR rapporteur.

The event “Biodiversity protection and coexistence with large carnivores in Europe – Challenges and opportunities for local and regional authorities”, held in Miercurea-Ciuc, brought together numerous speakers and addressed various topics related to biodiversity conservation and the relationship with large carnivores.

During the first part of the dialogue, European perspectives were discussed, with presentations and debates given by key figures such as Csaba Borboly, President of Harghita County Council, László Csák, expert, and Robert Zeman from the European Committee of the Regions. Other notable participants were MEP Herbert Dorfmann and Dr Miklós Heltai, Director of the MATE Wildlife Management Institute.

The second part of the dialogue focused on the situation in Romania and Harghita County, with presentations by officials such as Gabriel Oltean, Ministerial Advisor, and specialists such as Dr. Róbert Szép from the Research and Development Institute for Wildlife Management and Mountain Resources. Also included were perspectives from civil society, represented by Levente Miklós and Hadnagy Lehel.

The dialogue also included video messages from Professor Dr. Ovidiu Ionescu and Dr. Valeria Salvatore, who made important contributions related to the presentation of the Harghita County Regional Platform.

Moderated by journalist Dan Cărbunaru, the event focused on bringing together local and regional authorities, scientific experts and other stakeholders to share experiences and ideas on biodiversity conservation and coexistence with large carnivores, taking into account the Romanian legislative context. Professional presentations and networking sessions resulted in a better understanding of current challenges and possible solutions, as well as the creation of new connections and exchange of ideas among participants.

 

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Harghita County Council and the European Committee of the Regions organise a local dialogue on biodiversity protection and coexistence with large carnivores in Europe (LIVE, 8 March, 09.00)

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© Consiliul Județean Harghita

Harghita County Council, together with the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), is organising a local dialogue in Miercurea-Ciuc on Friday, 8 March 2024 on the protection of biodiversity and the coexistence of large carnivores in Europe, based on the draft opinion of CoR on this issue, coordinated by the President of Harghita County Council, Csaba Borboly (EPP-RO), as rapporteur.

Entitled “Biodiversity protection and coexistence with large carnivores in Europe – Challenges and opportunities for local and regional authorities –“, the event will start at 09.00 and will be broadcast LIVE on CaleaEuropeană.ro and on the Calea Europeană Facebook page.

 

The event will address both the European, national, and local dimensions of the topic. The full agenda is available here.

The first part of the dialogue will address the European perspective and will start with a presentation by the rapporteur, President of CJ Harghita Csaba Borboly, followed by a debate with László Csák, who will present the expert’s point of view, and Robert Zeman (CZ/ECR), shadow rapporteur at the European Committee of the Regions.

The panel will also include MEP Herbert Dorfmann and Dr Miklós Heltai, Director of the MATE Wildlife Management Institute.

The second part of the dialogue will address “Protection of biological diversity and coexistence with large carnivores in Romania and Harghita County”. This panel will include:

– Gabriel Oltean, Ministerial Advisor, Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests;

– Levente Miklós, Rural Development Association of Harghita County Council, on “Wildlife damage caused by brown bears in Harghita County. Aggregated data of the last ten years”;

– Director Dr. Róbert Szép, Research and Development Institute for Wildlife and Mountain Resources Management, on “Practical research results of the Institute for Research and Development of Wildlife and Mountain Resources”;

– Hadnagy Lehel, Engineer, Silos Hunting Association, on “To shoot or not to shoot – the situation of bears through the eyes of a game manager in Harghita”;

During this panel, Professor Dr. Ovidiu Ionescu, ICAS, and Dr. Valeria Salvatore, ecologist, Institute of Applied Ecology, Italy, will deliver video messages on “Regional platform support in meeting the challenges posed by coexistence with large carnivores in 2024”.

The local dialogue is moderated by journalist Dan Cărbunaru, director of CaleaEuropeană.ro.

The aim of the event is to bring together local and regional authorities, scientific experts, and stakeholders, providing an opportunity to share experiences and ideas on biodiversity conservation and coexistence with large carnivores, considering Romanian legislation.

Professional presentations in various fields will contribute to a deeper understanding of current challenges and possible solutions, while networking sessions will provide an opportunity to make new connections and exchange ideas.

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