Informal Deal Struck on Programme of EU Digital Transformation
Provisional agreement has been reached today on a new Digital Europe programme by negotiators working on behalf of the European Council and the European Parliament. The deal, once finalised, will promote large-scale deployment of state-of-the art technology, such as artificial intelligence and the latest cybersecurity tools, to speed up the digital transformation of European societies and economies.
The prospect of such a deal was previously discussed by EU leaders at the Special European Council meeting in October where it was agreed that a key pillar of the EU’s recovery from Covid-19 is digitalisation, crucial in fostering new forms of growth and strengthening EU resilience.
The programme informally agreed on today will run for the duration of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for 2021 to 2027, with a substantial overall budget of €7 588 million.
The Programme will provide funding for projects in five crucial areas:
- High-performance Computing
- Artificial Intelligence
- Cybersecurity and Trust
- Advanced Digital Skills
- Deployment, Best use of Digital Capacities, and Interoperability
A network of European digital innovation hubs will provide access to technological expertise for businesses, in particular SMEs, and public administrations. These hubs will bring together industry, businesses and administrations in need of new technological solutions on the one hand, and companies that have market-ready solutions on the other. With a broad geographical coverage across Europe, the hubs will play a central role in the implementation of the programme.
In a statement issued by the European Commission, following the announcement of the deal, Peter Altmaier, German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Presidency of the Council said, ‘Reinforced digital capacities will bring real added value for EU citizens, and this is even more true as the global pandemic continues to hold us in its grip. It is unclear when the COVID-19 experience will be over, but it is clear that digital services are becoming a key driver of our economic growth and that the role of digital technologies will grow even stronger.
It is also evident that the digital sector will play a key role in the post-COVID-19 economic recovery, which makes the Digital Europe programme a vital element of the recovery plan.’
The programme will be put into practice through multiannual work programmes covering one or more of the five action areas. It will involve co-financing from member states and, when needed, from the private sector. The co-financing rate will be established in the work programmes. The work programmes will also set out the eligibility criteria for the actions under the Digital Europe programme. Grants under the programme may cover up to 100% of the eligible costs.
Digital Europe will be complementary to a number of other programmes supporting digital transition, such as Horizon Europe, which focuses on research and technological development, and the digital aspects of the Connecting Europe Facility.
The provisional agreement reached today is subject to approval by the Council and will be submitted to the Council’s Permanent Representatives Committee for endorsement.
(Image by Olaf Kosinsky via Creative Commons)