Can the V4 take the lead in the EU’s digital agenda?

V4 MEP Caucus on the digital policy

22 November 2016

The eighth meeting of an informal V4 MEP Caucus jointly organized by the Bratislava-based Globsec Policy Institute, Aspen Institute Prague and Res Publica Warsaw took place on Monday 14 November 2016 in Brussels.

Marek Zagórski, the Secretary of State of the Polish Ministry of Digital Affairs, kicked off the November dinner discussion by outlining the Polish perspective on the V4’s role in fostering the DSM in the EU. Next to migration, the digital agenda could become another flagship theme of the V4 cooperation, as the interests of all four countries are convergent.

In this context, Poland has just prepared a document on strategic European action priorities in the digital agenda (a non-paper on free flow of data, opposing unjustified data localization). Polish V4 Presidency has also placed this topic high on its current agenda.

At the moment, apart from Hungary, all the V4 countries take part in the group of 16 like-minded countries, which seeks to foster a unified approach on the digital policy within the EU. For example, it is currently finalizing a non-paper on free flow of data, opposing unjustified data localization requirements within the single market. The question has also arisen as to who will take the lead of this group after the UK leaves the EU as a result of Brexit. Some participants suggested that the V4 itself should collectively aspire to lead this group.

However, much still needs to be done in this area. In particular, the V4 decision-makers should take into account that the future of digital development will depend more and more on the SMEs and start-ups and their involvement in the digital revolution.

The V4 should also create a better environment for investment into infrastructure. Being aware of risks of leaving sections of societies excluded from the digital revolution, the participants also discussed the importance of focusing more on the improvement of digital skills.

MEPs also showed a high interest in the discussion with Matthew Kaminski, Executive Editor of POLITICO’s European edition on the implications of the last week’s US elections. According to Mr Kaminski, the result of the elections is a US phenomenon. In this context, he warned the MEPs against projecting the domestic situation in their home countries into the outcome of the US elections.

Mr Kaminski also stressed that there is a lot of what we do not know at the moment. Mr Trump is 70 years old, first time elected to any public office and newcomer to politics. Also, he does not know Europe much, except for the UK where he has had a lot of business. At the same, two out of his three wives were from the Central Europe.

As for other implications, TTIP is certainly dead and in migration, the US might be moving into different direction than Europe. Moreover, the relations with Russia are likely to become more fluid. Mr Trump will also be tempted to prefer bilateral relations with individual EU countries, rather than the EU as a whole. In any case, it seems that we should give a new administration some time to figure out the importance of the EU-US relations.

MEPs participating in the dinner included Michał Boni (Poland), Zdzisław Krasnodębski (Poland), György Schöpflin (Hungary), Vladimír Maňka (Slovakia), Olga Sehnalová (Czech Republic) and Dita Charanzová (Czech Republic).