Honourable Vice-President, Secretary General, Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my utmost honour and pleasure to address the European friends of Internet and digital development here today.
I would like to stress that the eyes of all Europe, and not only, are directed to us these days because EuroDIG is the biggest and most valuable platform for open discussion on Internet governance, freedom, digital market and cybersecurity in Europe by all stakeholders together. I’m here today as a foreign minister of the country that will host EuroDIG next year, also the country currently chairing of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe with 47 member states, and finally as a country that wants to ensure a Digital Single Market based on and led by respect for human rights and the fundamental freedoms of the people in Europe.
The priorities of Estonia’s Chairmanship of the Council of Europe are dedicated to supporting and fostering the organisation’s work on protecting human rights online, culture and digitization, advancing children’s education and skills, and actions against cybercrime. Estonia, also a founding member of the Freedom Online Coalition, stands firmly for European values – democracy, human rights and the rule of law. As the Internet crosses our borders and opens up our economies at the speed of light, making these core values fit for the digital age has never been more important.
The Council of Europe’s Internet Governance Strategy for 2016-2019 calls on us to make the Internet a safe, secure, open and enabling environment for everyone without discrimination. We have our work cut out for ourselves: A recent comparative study of 47 member states prepared by the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law indicates that blocking, filtering and takedown of online content without a legal basis remain common practices, including among members of the Council of Europe.
A concrete step we can take is to scale globally the Council’s legally-binding conventions, such as the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime and Convention 108 on data protection, which strike the right balance between sanctions and safeguards. We should not imagine that security and freedom are in conflict. Cyber security, like the Internet itself, may have grown out of the defense sector, but cyberspace is so much more than a domain of warfare. For the purposes of what we value in Europe – open markets, open societies – the private sector has a huge role in ICT innovation. Giants like Google and Facebook have enormous influence over the way we are using the internet and mobile technology. More than ever before, we need to put an emphasis on communication and dialogue. We need a two-way conversation with the private sector. As governments, we cannot expect information-sharing to be a one-way street from companies to governments. To build and preserve trust, enhance security and share best practices as well as information about possible threat vectors, governments must also share information with the private sector, which often guarantees the operation of our vital services.
Cyber security as such needs to become part of our daily life. On all levels. We need to go beyond the thinking that any major development in cyber security requires a major catastrophe or incident. Security cannot be a luxury item; it needs to be a commodity. Most importantly, we should not forget that cyber security and industry is for people – we need to learn to listen the consumer and citizen, to the point of view of an end-user. Estonia has taken the clear view that governments should help citizens with the tools to keep their data secure; our citizens can send each other encrypted documents using their national e-ID-s as the private key.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Earlier, I mentioned Facebook and Google. Here in Brussels, there is a lot of talk about American internet companies. Let me tackle the elephant in the room: Europe will not benefit from protectionism. Europe may lose too many of our entrepreneurs and unicorns to Silicon Valley, including our very own Skype, but the answer is more innovation-friendly policies and openness. Nor can we afford to use cybersecurity as a proxy for protectionism. Technology doesn’t have a nationality. The development of new technology and technology-driven innovation can only flourish in free market economies. We need to embrace innovative companies and help them develop. When it comes to standards and industrial policy, we need to strike a balance. Europe should contribute to standardizing key technologies, but we need to do so in a way that is open and inclusive. We need to avoid making standards the enemy of innovation and competition. Last year, the European Commission presented its strategy for the Digital Single Market, under the leadership of Commissioners Ansip and Oettinger. An open internet alone is not enough, we also need e-commerce and sectoral legislation that promote a single market for e-commerce, an end to geo-blocking, and connectivity that supports a gigabit economy. We welcome the announcement made by the European Commission together with major internet companies last week to tackle hate speech online. This is a positive example of self-regulation and cooperation.
Estonia strongly supports the Digital Single Market work. The objectives of the EU and the Council of Europe complement each other. Estonia would like to see them working hand in hand, and in close cooperation with private sector, in order to create stability and prosperity in the digital age. Thank you very much.