Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Questions (405)

Brendan Smith

Question:

405. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the proposals he has to advance the EU digital economy during the Irish Presidency of the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8925/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

Ireland’s overall goal during our Presidency is to ensure that the efforts of the EU are focussed on the steps necessary to restore economic stability and promote jobs and growth. In Ireland and across Europe, the digital economy is considered to be a key enabler for stability, jobs, growth and social inclusion. For this reason, as chair of the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council, I have prioritised a number of initiatives that support the implementation of the Digital Single Market and the Digital Agenda for Europe.

An important goal in this regard is to progress the legislative proposal for a pan-European electronic ID, authentication and signature framework. This is a key enabler for a properly functioning EU digital market. The proposed regulation is technically complex and Ireland aims to comprehensively address the many important concerns raised by Member States during its Presidency with a view to producing a comprehensive Progress Report for Council next June.

In tandem with this initiative, Ireland has prioritised the delivery of measures to enhance trust in online services. Trust and security in online transactions is essential so that both consumers and businesses can make secure, simple and inexpensive online transactions. As Presidency, Ireland is therefore seeking to deliver real progress on the recently published proposals for a comprehensive EU Cyber Security Strategy as well as legislation relating to network and information security.

These cyber security proposals will build on earlier initiatives to enhance trust and security. Earlier this month, the Irish Presidency negotiated the first agreement under the Irish Presidency on a renewed mandate for the workings of the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA).

The rollout of advanced high speed broadband is a key priority across Europe and another important pillar of the Digital Agenda for Europe. In Ireland, we have published a National Broadband Plan which aims to deliver early on some of the key targets under the Digital Agenda for Europe. As Presidency we await with interest, proposals from the Commission in relation to reducing the cost of high speed broadband rollout which we believe will resonate with some of the actions identified in Ireland’s National Broadband Plan, and on which we hope to commence dialogue during our Presidency.

All of these initiatives are designed to improve and encourage access for citizens, communities and business, thus enabling a more digitally empowered society and creating opportunities for growth. The proposed Directive on the Re-use of Public Sector Information, is aimed at creating such opportunities and Ireland hopes to shortly conclude an agreement with the European Parliament on this issue. The Directive allows for increased availability of public sector information which can be re-used for commercial and non-commercial purposes.

Making information more widely accessible across society is also a key objective and under Ireland’s Presidency, the Council has started examining legislative proposals on the accessibility of public sector websites.

The recent MFF negotiations significantly impacted on the financial envelope available to the telecoms element of the Connecting Europe Facility. The telecoms Working Party will consider the most appropriate way forward on this initiative once the vote of the European Parliament on the budget is known.

Finally, the Digital Agenda Assembly will be held in Dublin next June. My officials are working closely with the Commission to shape the event which will emphasise digital skills and entrepreneurship. The theme of the event will be heavily influenced by the recently published mid-term review of the Digital Agenda which highlighted the fact that ICT can contribute to a paradigm shift in society and economic activity through more efficiency, new products and services and smarter public services.