The key priority for information society technologies (IST) policies under the Greek EU Presidency will be the development of broadband services and infrastructure, while the Italian Presidency will aim to revive Europe's attention and confidence in technology.
These were the conclusions of presentations made by Emmanuel Stratakis, Greek Deputy Minister for Transport and Communications, and Lucio Stanca, Italian Minister for Innovation and Technologies, at a high-level workshop at the European Parliament on 5 December.
'The most important task facing Europe, which will be a key priority under the Italian Presidency, is to restore the spirit and commitment to the Lisbon objective,' said Mr Stanca, referring to Europe's goal of becoming the world's most competitive knowledge-based economy by 2010. 'IST has lost the attention and confidence of people as a tool for economic revival. We mustn't be pessimistic when we see the opportunities for growth that exist in the IST market,' the Minister continued.
Mr Stratakis said that the Greek Presidency, which takes over from the current Danish Presidency in January, would focus on IST policies that promote inclusion, a key priority for 2003, which is European year of people with disabilities. He said: 'The development of broadband services and wider access to the Internet will promote the inclusion of all members of society; particularly the most disadvantaged.'
The event was hosted by the European Internet Foundation and Puntoit under the heading 'Europe's information society, priorities for 2003'. Also in attendance were Erkki Liikanen, Commissioner for Enterprise and the Information Society, Pat Cox, President of the European Parliament, Helge Sander, Danish Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, and high-level representatives of the technology industry.
Mr Liikanen outlined the Commission's five key IST priority areas: broadband, content and services, research and development (R&D), the regulatory framework, and interoperability. The Commissioner also announced two new initiatives for 2003: a ministerial conference to look at the issue of providing broadband access to all parts of Europe, and an upcoming call for presentations from EU Member States to find the best e-health and e-government services online before the presentation of European prizes in both categories.
A number of speakers at the workshop, most notably those from within the IT industry, had advice for Mr Liikanen regarding the Commission's regulatory framework for the IT and telecoms markets. Jozef Cornu from the board of directors at Alcatel urged the Commissioner to amend the current regulatory environment to stimulate further broadband investment, but warned against 'remaining too long in regulatory debate, as this will slow investment and the market.'
Bernard Vergnes, the Chairman of Microsoft Europe, said that he broadly supported the Commission's initiatives, but highlighted the need for more work with regard to intellectual property (IP) rights. There was, he said, 'a clear link between the protection of intellectual property and growth, especially for innovative small companies.' Mr Vergnes stressed the importance of effective enforcement of IP laws, and also noted the worrying increase of software piracy in Europe.
The issue of intellectual property was a subject that Helge Sander had touched on during his earlier address. 'Intellectual property rights and data protection,' he said, 'are instruments that can make an important contribution to Europe's IST market, but there remain outstanding questions that will need to be faced during the Greek Presidency.'
Pat Cox's remarks focused on the wider goal of strengthening Europe's competitiveness, saying that 'we have to be tough when measuring our progress towards the Lisbon goal, a goal which I believe is vitally important.' He spoke also of the importance of maintaining dialogue with the US and the rest of the world on IST issues at the same time as increasing our competitiveness in relation to those countries.
For further information on IST under the Sixth Framework Programme, please visit: http://www.cordis.lu/fp6/ist.htm