Strengthening the digitalisation of Central and Eastern Europe will boost competitiveness and economic development
At the first ministerial conference on digital transformation, representatives of the Three Seas initiative countries agreed on the need to chart an ambitious path for economic development and competitiveness. They are convinced that this will only be possible through increased investment in digitalisation and closer cooperation in the region.
The aims of the first ministerial conference of the Three Seas initiative on digital transformation is to establish closer development cooperation in the region and to exchange best practice in digitalisation. As stressed by the Minister of Digital Transformation, Mark Boris Andrijanič, during the conference opening: “The countries of the Three Seas initiative have tremendous potential to become Europe's most digitally advanced countries, thus contributing to an EU-wide development breakthrough. We have the knowledge and determination to create the most competitive environment for the development of digital technologies in Europe. Because we need to learn from one another, we today exchanged best practice in the field of digitalisation of education, healthcare, public administration and the economy."
High-level representatives of the Three Seas initiative countries presented good practices aimed at promoting and strengthening digital skills, especially for older internet users, and at training teachers of digital skills. E-government services are being strengthened in all countries of the region and enable citizens and companies to provide an increasing number of administrative services through a single entry point, identification via a mobile application and other user-oriented solutions. Artificial intelligence technologies are being introduced in the public sector to reduce the burden on users of many simple and time-consuming tasks. The adoption of special regulations establishing and regulating the rights of citizens and companies to conduct electronic operations with public authorities, such as the adoption of the 'digital constitution', for example, shows the outstanding role of the Three Seas countries in the deployment of e-government services and in digitalisation in general.
Representatives of the Three Seas initiative countries welcomed the progress in the adoption of digital acts and congratulated the Slovenian Presidency on the successful adoption of the general approach of EU Member States to the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act at the Competitiveness Council meeting. They agreed that these are historically important acts that ensure an appropriate balance between user safety and protection and the provision of appropriate incentives for innovation. The interlocutors also emphasised the need to strengthen European semiconductor production and increase European digital sovereignty and autonomy, and identified some existing initiatives and partnerships important for ensuring European semiconductor value chains. In conclusion, the high-level representatives agreed that close transatlantic cooperation is needed, especially in the field of digitalisation.
In the afternoon discussion, held in cooperation with the Atlantic Council and the Centre for European Perspective, the ministerial conference participants were joined by representatives of the private sector and non-governmental organisations. The joint discussion focused on accelerating the digital transformation, attracting foreign investment and bridging the digital divide in the Three Seas Initiative countries.
The interlocutors highlighted the impact of new technologies, especially the opportunities and challenges brought by artificial intelligence, which already enhances the efficiency of production processes and prevents accidents at work and which will take on higher-risk jobs in the near future. It will also play a bigger role in product development and logistics optimisation. They agreed that there is still a lot of potential for the development and advancement of digital solutions in the Central and Eastern European countries. Although talent development is crucial, the main challenge is the lack of digital skills that member state governments need to address as soon as possible if they are to compete with other technologically and digitally more advanced countries. They also turned the spotlight on small and medium-sized enterprises, which are the driving forces of development and economic growth in the region. They need to be allocated more resources for digital transformation in the future.
Established in 2015, the Three Seas Initiative is a forum of 12 EU member states located in Central and Eastern Europe between the Adriatic, Baltic and Black Seas. These are Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. The aim of the initiative is to support regional dialogue and connect countries on the North-South axis. Its focus is on further investments in the economy, transport connectivity, energy infrastructure and digitalisation in the region.