Citizens must remain at the heart of digital union project

Written by Carlos Zorrinho on 16 June 2017 in Opinion

The digital union presents huge opportunities for Europe, but citizens must remain at the heart of the project, writes Carlos Zorrinho.

Carlos Zorrinho | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

These are uncertain times. Clear ideas and policies capable of mobilising citizens will shape our path to a new level of development.

The EU in particular, which has suffered from unregulated globalisation, must lead by example, particularly on issues such as environmental sustainability - which it has sought to do with the Paris agreement - new generation trade deals, financial transparency, multilateral conflict resolution, energy transition and the design of the new European gigabit society. 

Europe needs a digital identity - this is a matter of economic competitiveness, social justice, sustainability of the European social model and citizens' commitment to the future of the EU.


The values which form part of our humanitarian nature, focused on people, on the protection of freedom, on equal opportunities, on solidarity, on the acceptance of diversity, on inclusion and on the right to protection and privacy must remain embedded in the legislative, regulatory and technological framework underlying the digital union.

Asserting of a European digital identity - respecting other levels of identity and belonging - is not a disadvantage for the EU. Rather the contrary, it is an opportunity for the bloc to rebuild itself as a global player capable of mapping out the lines of reference for a better future.

We are at the dawn of a technical revolution. We could use technology to reconfigure the economic and social organisation model, make life better for people and increase the competitiveness of our companies globally.

The European gigabit society must be focused on responding to citizens' problems and needs. This vision will generate products which are desirable on the European market and beyond and will force our competitors, naturally, to adapt to our market rather than creating the market most favourable to themselves, thereby diluting any sense of belonging and the differentiating identity of European citizens.

At the same time, with safe and transparent data sharing, we will drive our research centres and our companies to develop innovative products and applications, in all sectors and in particular in the area of access to more efficient and financially sustainable public services, without reducing the quality delivered to beneficiaries.

The application of this strategy will also serve as a key for reconfiguring learning, re-skilling and digital skills generalisation processes throughout the population and throughout the territory, combating exclusion and the democratic distortion inherent at different levels of participation.

There are no magic solutions for transforming societies, but there are unique opportunities. I believe that the digital union, just like the energy union which is closely interconnected with digital transformation, constitutes a potential turning point for the future of Europe.

I always keep these European values in mind when working on the various legislative and initiative processes in which I am involved, within the framework of the digital union. One such initiative, WIFI4EU, is the most and recent and also the most emblematic.

EU citizens need to be reconnected with a future project in which they will be players by right, within the framework of strong commitment between people and institutions. The admirable new world of the new digital gigabit society, will certainly be new, but will only be admirable if it is sustainable and has an identity.


About the author

Carlos Zorrinho (S&D, PT) will be a speaker at the EU's digital assembly in Valletta 15-16 June 2017

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