Krzysztof Szubert: Poland is a real player in the digital single market

Written by Rajnish Singh on 22 January 2018 in Interviews
Interviews

Krzysztof Szubert, Poland’s secretary of state in charge of digital affairs, says despite political differences with the EU, his government is fully behind the digital single market strategy.

Krzysztof Szubert


The Polish secretary of state within the ministry of digital affairs, Krzysztof Szubert, has his government’s responsibility for handling the EU’s digital single market (DSM) strategy, coordinating between eight other government departments.

Although political differences remain between the EU institutions and his government, the DSM ensures that Poland retains a strong interest in the single market. 

“If you consider Europe as a single entity with 500 million citizens, the DSM can be considered very positive and connecting the EU. Currently, we’re rather fragmented and facing difficult discussions on political issues. Digital technologies are exciting for young people and can enhance the economy of Europe.” 


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An entrepreneur who worked in the ICT sector for more than 20 years, Szubert says the four priorities at a national level are; infrastructure, including fibre optics, 5G, skills and competences for workers; eGovernment services and cybersecurity. For the DSM, however, cross-border data transfer is paramount. 

“Although we are focused on these four points, on a European level the free flow of data is the priority. Even new technologies and innovations will depend on the free flow of data.” 

This use and manipulation of data is the key to future economic success. “We are moving from old-style, carbon energy economies to one fuelled by data.” 

However, there is a split between member states on unrestricted movement of data. Poland’s position is supported by the Benelux countries, the whole of Scandinavia and most of central Europe. 

However, France, Germany and Italy remain unsure “and want to understand the full picture. Szubert believes they are coming around slowly even if France remains “more protectionist in this respect.” 

The introduction of 5G technology is key, “This can be the glue to bring fragmented parts of the market together. The extra bandwidth, speed and capacity that 5G brings will enable the transfer of more and more data. By implementing 5G across Europe simultaneously, we avoid different connection speeds in different parts of Europe.”

Bandwidth harmonisation at 700mhz across the whole of the EU can deliver this. However, he points out that countries like Poland, which border non-EU countries need agreement with them to switch to other bandwidths. 

“Russia, which borders Poland, uses the same frequency we may need for our 5G for its military services. We will not be able to implement 5G because we need to make an agreement with the Russians.”

These negotiations with Russia are where the EU institutions could play a positive role. Implementing the DSM has huge consequences on data protection laws.

Szubert points out the EU’s general data protection regulation (GDPR) is the biggest change to Poland’s laws in the last 30 years. It affects almost 140 legislative acts, all of which must be completed by 25 May 2018. He stressed that he would prefer to see GDPR introduced first, then adapt ePrivacy laws. 

With most EU member states supporting DSM implementation in principle, Szubert says “The devil is in the detail. We agree the direction is the same, but we still need to discuss different elements such as interoperability and standardisation.”

Another aspect raised by other member states is how the DSM transformation should be ‘governed’ at both Commission and member states level. 

“It’s such a big strategy with huge impacts on economies, societies and individual people, it needs to be looked at from the highest level with the full support of governments and prime ministers. Otherwise its likely we will fail to execute it.” 

With the EU now discussing a Europe-wide single tax on digital goods and services, Szubert preferred to see companies pay taxes within the country where they generate profits. 

“Our idea is to use an equalisation tax or an OECD framework, but we are against a European standardisation common consolidated corporate tax base (CCTB).” 
He has concerns that an EU wide tax will provide the Commission with tax competencies, drawing power away from national governments. With more people buying more goods online, the minister recognised that the cost of postal delivery differs; prices are dependent not on distance, but on whether packages need to cross borders. 

“We would like to address this too. From an eCommerce and web shops perspective, we should avoid the situation where I get different prices on the same website from Germany than from, say, the UK. The same should apply to shipping costs to avoid discrimination.”

Although Poland is enthusiastically gearing up to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the DSM, like many economies previously based on heavy industries, transformation could lead to painful job losses, particularly with the growth in robotic and AI technologies. 

He argues, “As a country, we are in a strong societal position. We have quite a young population, making it in our interest to tell people where we are going with the digital transformation of our economy. We need to show we are a real player in the DSM, helping young people think about their future. This transformation could take 10 years or fewer, long enough to allow young people from secondary schools and university to reorient their careers goals.”

With the Internet of Things (IoT) dominating future production, the minister fully supported the EU’s cybersecurity certification on ICT products. “This is vital. With more and more technology such as the IoT, cybersecurity becomes increasingly indispensable. We should view the IoT and cybersecurity as inseparable.”

At a national level, Poland was now sharing cybersecurity between different ministries, not just defence. It was increasing spending on cybersecurity to around €500m. Sharing a border with Russia, the Polish minister was fully aware of the risk posed by fake news, saying, “The threat was significant. From what I have seen in the comments and exchanges between ministers, it is being viewed as even more dangerous than conventional warfare. Cheaper, more efficient and capable of changing and adapting more rapidly too.”

 

About the author

Rajnish Singh is commissioning editor of the Parliament Magazine

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