Digital Europe investment to be shaped by experts

Out-Law News | 28 Aug 2019 | 12:45 pm | 1 min. read

It is important that those appointed to shape how funds under the EU's 'Digital Europe' programme should be spent are genuinely impartial advisers, free from national bias, a technology law expert has said.

The Digital Europe programme was proposed in June 2018 by the European Commission as a means by which to build the EU's "strategic digital capacities" and facilitate widespread use of digital technologies.

The programme envisages a €9.2 billion investment across areas such as supercomputing, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. The plans are underpinned by a draft EU regulation. MEPs have outlined their support for the proposals but, with amendments still being considered, the regulation still to be formally adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, which together hold the EU's main law-making powers.

Work on finalising the regulation is expected to resume at the European Parliament once negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 have been completed and the Council has a mandate on all elements of the proposal, including budget-related issues.

The Commission has nevertheless opened a consultation with industry on where funds from the Digital Europe scheme should be targeted in the first two years of the programme. As first reported by MLex and confirmed by Out-Law sources, the Commission has also separately begun to establish an expert group to help shape the programme's work, with EU member states invited to nominate representatives to that group.

Dr. Nils Rauer of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: "The European Commission's long term aim has been to create a true digital single market in Europe – these plans have been very ambitious from day one. The regulatory workload involved in achieving this goal is massive to deliver both a prosperous and secure digital environment. This is because the digital single market project touches on a large number of areas which are complex by their nature. The Digital Europe programme's focus on areas such as supercomputing, AI and cybersecurity are an example of this."

"It is crucial to maintain focus and to tackle things in the right order. Expert advice being obtained to help the Commission appropriately allocate and spend the funds in a smart and sustained way is a precondition for success. What is most important in this context is that the advice being delivered is free of national bias and prerogative. Therefore, nominating the right team of experts is essential in order to achieve the goal of a truly existing digital single market," he said.