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Digital Europe programme must recognise the role of pioneering regions and cities  

In its opinion on the Digital Europe programme, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) underlines that the effective delivery of the smart, sustainable digital solutions of the future will require European partnerships between pioneering regions and cities and high quality digital infrastructure. The opinion adopted at the CoR plenary session on 5 December was drawn up by the chair of Espoo city board Markku Markkula.

The Commission is proposing that the new Digital Europe programme should invest during the 2021-27 period EUR 9.2 billion in improving the EU's international competitiveness, as well as developing and consolidating Europe's strategic digital capacities related to artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, high-performance computing and digital excellence.

“This is the first time the Commission is proposing a package integrating digitalisation, research and innovation into all major EU programmes and into Europe's societal development. The key question is how to make the Digital Europe programme so attractive that cities and regions – with their businesses, universities and citizens – speed up Europe's digital and economic transformation and increase public and private investment considerably. Europe needs a strong entrepreneurial mentality to bring change," said the rapporteur of the opinion and CoR First Vice-President Markku Markkula (FI/EPP).

The CoR believes that digitalisation needs to be stepped up by increasing local and European cooperation and partnerships. The programme must strengthen synergies between the various EU programmes, funding instruments and strategies for smart specialisation. Europe should create a network of Digital Innovation Hubs, in which participating cities and regions would be selected at national level in a regionally and thematically balanced way. Furthermore, Markkula suggested that every region in Europe should set up its own digital innovation centre.

“We need cities and regions to be pioneers for the Digital Europe programme. The best results can be achieved at the level of pioneering cities and regions, in close cooperation with enterprises, universities, research institutes as well as local actors. EU-wide high-performance computing ecosystems may be expanded with the help of the Digital Europe programme to cover all segments of scientific and industrial value chain," Markkula explained.

The CoR stresses that removing regulatory barriers, cutting red tape and modernising EU legislation are the key to ensuring a highly competitive European industry. At the same time, it is important to improve public and private sector capacity to implement digital innovation and develop citizens' digital skills as well as to invest in high capacity digital infrastructure, such as 5G networks which are needed to introduce new services and technologies across Europe.

For the digitalisation of public administration and public services, it is essential for there to be EU-wide interoperability and availability of data, technology and know-how. According to Markkula, improving the quality and quantity of data can help develop smart public services and support decision-making based on empirical evidence and knowledge.

“Digitalisation has a crucial role to play in addressing major societal challenges such as the fight against climate change. Europe and European businesses must take on a leading global role and assume responsibility for the future. This can only be achieved through cooperation and determination," stressed Markkula.



Lauri Ouvinen
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