The European Commission (EC) today brought together a diverse group of professionals from the fields of digital technology and telecommunications to further the cause of creating a "digitally strong EU."
Held in conjunction with the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU), the one-day event in Brussels was specifically aimed at forging official commitments related to Europe's evolving digital future.
A follow-up to last year's EU Digital Day, which was held in Rome, this year's focus was on five priorities that will help the EU reach its goal of enabling "a competitive and socially secure society," as well as "better public services and security."
After briefly recapping the progress since Rome, the event broke for coffee (it is Europe, after all) before discussing how to pave the way for the EU Artificial Intelligence Initiative, which focused on securing "commitments from EU Member States governments and key stakeholders from industry, academia and civil society," especially with regard to engaging in the European AI Alliance.
The afternoon was partially devoted to the Blockchain Partnership Initiative, which was featured in a session devoted to ensuring Europe "seizes all the opportunities offered by a transformative blockchain ecosystem." That ambition involves "building on existing leading initiatives, pooling forces and collaborating further on specific actions toward a European Blockchain Infrastructure for services of public interest."
The event highlighted how blockchain will work with other next-generation technologies to create a more digitally friendly and capable Europe. This sentiment was emphasized by EC Vice President Andrus Ansip, who cut his political teeth in the late '90s as an Estonian politician and is also the current European commissioner for the Digital Single Market. In his opening keynote, he addressed Europe's path forward: "The European tech sector identifies AI and blockchain as the areas where Europe is best positioned to play a leading role. However, it is no secret that we have to invest – both politically and financially."
After mentioning a redoubled effort in European AI initiatives and collaboration, Ansip said, "I would like to see EU countries make a similar commitment to blockchain technologies – now moving out of the lab and going mainstream."
In total, 22 European countries signed a declaration on the establishment of a European Blockchain Partnership. Commissioner Mariya Gabriel for Digital Economy and Society, championed the declaration stating:
"In the future, all public services will use blockchain technology. Blockchain is a great opportunity for Europe and Member States to rethink their information systems, to promote user trust and the protection of personal data, to help create new business opportunities and to establish new areas of leadership, benefiting citizens, public services and companies. The Partnership launched today enables Member States to work together with the European Commission to turn the enormous potential of blockchain technology into better services for citizens."
Building from the EU Blockchain Observatory that was launched in February, which already has more than 80 million euros invested in blockchain-related projects, today's event provided some clarity to member countries' intent to invest roughly 300 million euros into developing blockchain technologies by 2020.
The signatories and declaration can be seen below.