State of the Union: Path to the Digital Decade – Questions and Answers

(Source: European Commission)

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What is the Path to the Digital Decade?

The Path to the Digital Decade is the Commission’s proposal to support the digital transformation in Europe by 2030. This initiative will embrace the accelerating trends and growing needs of digitalisation, which were also underlined by the pandemic. The Path is based on addressing the gaps in Europe’s digital capacities, while directing common actions and large-scale investments to reap the benefits brought by digitalisation.

It is based on a Compass with four cardinal points: digital skills, digital infrastructure, digital business, and digital public services. Specific targets have been set for each of the areas to usher in the Digital Decade in Europe by 2030. The Commission and the Member States will define Union-level and national trajectories towards the targets in the period leading up to 2030. The trajectories will help the Commission monitor progress annually and address deviations and inefficiencies together with the Member States.

A successful digital transformation will place Europe at the forefront of the global trends, underpinning its competitiveness and shaping universal standards. More so, digital technologies are the key enabler for attaining the sustainability goals of the European Green Deal. 

How will the Commission work with Member States to ensure progress towards the Digital Decade targets?

The Commission and the Member States will work closely together to reach the Digital Decade targets and objectives. Initially, soon after the entry into force of the Decision establishing the Path to the Digital Decade, they will develop together projected EU trajectories for each of the targets. The trajectories will help to assess progress towards the targets.

Member States should then include their national trajectories in the national strategic roadmaps, along with any current or planned policies or instruments the Member States intend to use. Not all of the Digital Decade targets require identical efforts across all Member States. Instead, some of the targets require a degree of targeted effort of some Member States and the different potential of Member States to contribute to the Union level targets will be taken into account.

Each year the Commission will publish the report on the ‘State of the Digital Decade’. In the five months following the publication of the report, the Commission and the Member States will closely cooperate to identify areas where progress is insufficient and agree on measures to ensure that the targets are achieved. At this point, Member States may adjust their strategic national roadmaps to reflect the recommendations outlined in the report and may propose additional corrective actions and/or projects such as multi-country projects.

The Decision provides a set of tools to ensure that actions taken by Member states are sufficient to allow progress towards the Digital Decade targets. These tools include a peer review, Commission recommendations, possible further actions at EU level, as well as targeted dialogue.

What will the report on the ‘State of the Digital Decade’ include?

The report will serve as a yearly assessment of the digital transformation in Europe. In the report, the Commission will notably evaluate the progress towards the digital targets. The report will compare measured progress to the projected trajectories for each target, as well as provide recommendations for further actions to accelerate the attainment of the targets, including joint commitments and multi-country projects. 

In particular, the report will:

  • Identify the areas where further action is needed;
  • Analyse investment or other resource gaps and highlight the actions needed to increase the EU’s digital sovereignty; and
  • Assess the implementation of relevant regulatory proposals and the actions undertaken at EU and Member States level.

The report will also be an opportunity to inform about the level of adherence to the Digital Principles to be set out in the upcoming Declaration.

How are the report on the ‘State of the Digital Decade’ and its recommendations to Member States related to the European Semester?  

The Commission should submit to the European Parliament and the Council an annual report on the ‘State of the Digital Decade’. The report will include the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), containing the data underpinning the digital aspects in the European semester and an overview and analysis of the digital transformation in the EU. It will also evaluate the progress made towards the objectives and targets of the Digital Decade for the period towards 2030. Consequently, the report on the ‘State of the Digital Decade’ should feed into the European Semester, including aspects relative to the Recovery and Resilience Facility.

What are multi-country projects?

Multi-country projects are large-scale projects facilitating the achievement of the targets for digital transformation of the Union. They channel coordinated investments between the EU, at least three Member States and, where appropriate, other public or private stakeholders.

Through scaled-up and targeted investments in the digital sector, multi-country projects develop and deploy pan-European leading-edge capacities in strategic technological areas, thus leading to a more competitive and resilient European economy.

Do you have examples of multi-country projects?

The Commission has identified initial key areas where cooperation among Member States is necessary to reach the Digital Decade targets:

  • European Common Data Infrastructure and Services;
  • Endow the EU with the next generation of low power trusted processors;
  • Pan-European deployment of 5G corridors;
  • Acquiring supercomputers and quantum computers, connected with the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking;
  • Developing and deploying ultra-secure quantum and space-based communication infrastructures;
  • Deploying a network of Security Operations Centres, as part of the EU Cybersecurity Strategy;
  • Connected Public Administration;
  • European Blockchain Services Infrastructure;
  • European Digital Innovation Hubs;
  • High-tech partnerships for digital skills through the Pact for Skills;
  • Other projects, which become necessary to the achievement of the objectives of the Path to the Digital Decade over time due to emerging social, economic or environmental developments.

The annual report on the ‘State of Digital Decade’ will provide the necessary information on developments and identified gaps in Europe’s digital transformation, and update the list of multi-country projects.

What are the benefits of multi-country projects?

  • Multi-country projects can:
  • Enable big projects that one single Member State could not develop on its own;
  • Pool resources to achieve economies of scale and increase impact;
  • Reduce the digital divide between Member States;
  • Support an interconnected, interoperable and secure Digital Single Market;
  • Build ecosystems of excellence important enough to attract and retain talent;
  • Implement flagship initiatives for which cooperation among Member States is important.

What financial resources will be used to fund multi-country projects? 

Multi-country projects should be able to attract and combine, in an efficient manner, various sources of Union and Member States’ funding – something which Member States could not do on their own.

Depending on the needs of the specific multi-country projects, funds from a centrally managed Union programme may be combined with resources committed by Member States, including contributions from the Recovery and Resilience Facility, the Digital Europe Programme, the Connecting Europe Facility, the InvestEU Programme, Horizon Europe, as well as the European Regional Development and the Cohesion funds.

Member States can contribute to multi-country projects from their regional or national budgets. The European Investment Bank (EIB) and other entities, whether public or private, may contribute to multi-country projects where appropriate. When financial resources are State aid measures, state aid rules apply.

How will multi-country projects be coordinated?

The Commission, acting as multi-country project accelerator, will coordinate the setup of multi-country projects.

In the first step of that coordination, the Commission will be responsible for assessing the viability of proposed multi-country projects and publishing related calls for expression of interest addressed to all Member States. 

Based on this, in the second step of coordination, the Commission will explore and advise on the possibilities for implementation of the multi-country project with the participating Member States. This includes guidance regarding strategic aspects of the multi-country projects’ implementation, the choice of funding sources and of the implementation mechanism.

The Commission will also support the implementation of multi-country projects by providing, as needed, technical assistance services, expertise, and the exchange of best practice.

Do State aid rules apply?

Yes. The procedures set out in this proposal are without prejudice to the normal State aid procedures, which need to be followed as for any other measure if it entails State aid. State aid control prevents crowding out of private investment, boosts leverage of these investments, prevents waste of public resources and limits distortions of competition. State aid rules also ensure that subsidy races are avoided within the internal market. 

What is a European Digital Infrastructure Consortium?

A European Digital Infrastructure Consortium is a new instrument proposed by the European Commission to help speed up and simplify the setup and implementation of multi-country projects, where other existing legal frameworks may not be appropriate.

A minimum of three Member States wishing to go ahead with a multi-country project and who want to use a European Digital Infrastructure Consortium to do so, will submit an application to the Commission.

Following the examination of Member States’ application the Commission will, if it concludes that all requirements provided for in the decision are satisfied, adopt a decision establishing the European Digital Infrastructure Consortium. Each consortium will have its own legal personality, governing body, statutes, and seat in a participating Member State.

Why invest public resources where private sector investment would work as well?

Multi-country projects using public support will be designed to target and address areas with sub-optimal investment situations, without duplicating or crowding out private financing and thus providing a clear European added value.

For More Information

State of the Union Address by President von der Leyen

Press release – State of the Union: Commission proposes a Path to the Digital Decade to deliver the EU’s digital transformation by 2030

Factsheet – Path to the Digital Decade

Presentation – Path to the Digital Decade

Proposal for a Decision establishing a Path to the Digital Decade

Staff working document

Digital Compass

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