Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am delighted to have been invited back here today, and to share with you the many exciting developments.
It has indeed been a momentous year for the evolution of our digital society and progress in the research that underpins ICT.
This Committee has played a major part, helping in several ways to create an advanced digital society in Europe.
The European Parliament and Council recently reached political agreement on the Radio Spectrum Policy Programme, now due to be formally adopted early next year.
The Programme will strengthen the Single Market for wireless applications, improve EU spectrum management, and make a significant amount of spectrum available for wireless broadband and 4th generation mobile. The Programme will also look at the future spectrum needs in all domains, and will increase transparency in future spectrum distribution.
Your continued commitment to achieving this agreement has been welcome. And I would like to thank in particular Mr Hokmark, the rapporteur, and Mr Reul, who, with a number of colleagues from this Committee, have burned the midnight oil in the course of the many trilogues.
This brings me onto another major project currently on our radar, the future Roaming Regulation.
I am sure that you share my determination to bring about significant, lasting and structural changes in the roaming market. I know that you need to bring home a clear and simple message that resonates with citizens. Users want a fairer deal and for charges to be reasonable, without fearing that their phone bill abroad will cost more than their holiday. I want this too.
But we should cure the disease, not merely dress the symptoms. We need a lasting solution that delivers a new offer and genuine competition. Competition has brought down prices in other markets like air travel: it can bring down roaming prices too.
Price caps will be needed for quite some time until the effects of the structural solution are fully felt. And we are now also introducing these caps for data roaming. But they must be set at the right level: to be a consumer safety net that leaves sufficient margins for competition to develop. Caps that are too low will not be effective.
And experience has shown that they are not the whole answer. To prise open markets and introduce real consumer choice, price regulation must not hamper effective competition.
I appreciate the broad support for this proposed approach. I know some questions have been raised about the technical implementation of our proposed “decoupling” structural measure. On this, I have already made clear that we are open to examine different implementing solutions and we are having fruitful discussions with BEREC. In fact, any technical solution or combination of solutions that leads to easy choices for consumers and real competition is acceptable for us.
Importantly, in terms of timing, we need ambition to achieve agreement at first reading, and thus ensure adoption before the current Regulation expires at the end of next June.
Otherwise, there will be a regulatory gap. The consumer could see the safety net disappear, and will have to wait longer for competition and choice to take off.
The other major dossier on which we are working together is ENISA.
As you know it is my clear ambition to reinforce the Agency and make it more efficient. We need to support the EU Institutions, Member States and society at large in getting better Internet security.
This means two things. First, ENISA must be able to attract and to retain the very best IT security experts in Europe. Second, ENISA staff and stakeholders must have the best conditions for networking. This is essential for the Agency to carry out its mission successfully.
As from the beginning of October, ENISA has a mobile assistance team working out of Athens, so they can help Member States reinforce Internet security capabilities. This is a very positive development.
I am confident that the European Parliament, in the context of the on-going legislative process, is ready and able to come up with solutions to improve efficiency and attractiveness of the Agency. Including arrangements for teams to work out of Athens. We are prepared to consider any improvement in a modified proposal before the Council adopts its common position.
Internet security does not, however, stop with a more muscular ENISA. The many diverse threats to Internet security call for a broad-based approach.
So, I am planning an ambitious strategic initiative on Internet security at European level. By 2015 our strategy would aim to put in place robust lines of defence against online attacks and disruptions. Of course, as threats are borderless, international cooperation and global engagement will be a key part.
The EU should work with third countries to make sure there are no safe havens for those who attack the Internet, and to prevent country-specific security requirements emerging that would raise barriers to entry for our industry.
W e must also protect vulnerable users. Making the Internet a better place for children is one of the priorities of the Digital Agenda.
The Safer Internet Programme has set up a Europe-wide network of Safer Internet Centres to raise awareness across the EU and beyond.
But the digital environment is evolving quickly – and so must we. Children in Europe now start going online as early as seven, and access the Internet from their mobiles and game consoles, as well as PCs.
In the light of these changes, the Commission will, in the coming months, present a European strategy to empower children to make the best and safest use of Internet. Here to read more.