Digital Europe and the Free Movement of Data

  • Insights
  • 10/07/2017 18:19

#eu2017ee #paperless

Digital Estonia
Digital activities of the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union (photo:

Digital activities of the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union

In this overview, you will be given insight into the digital activities dealt with over the 6 months of the Estonian Presidency.

The Digital Presidency: digital solutions influence every aspect of our society. From soil management to space exploration, the future of the world is digital! For the last 20 years, Estonia has witnessed the transformative effect of digitalisation on society. Many are calling the Estonian Presidency 'the digital Presidency' because of our ambition to realise the benefits of a digital society for every European. We are committed to doing our utmost to meet these expectations and to live up to the mantle of the digital Presidency. Therefore we have organised our digital Presidency around three pillars: digital policy, digital events and digital legacy.



Digital policy

The Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union considers the aspects of building a digital society in every Council configuration, because building Europe's digital future requires action across policy areas.

From the way we work to our education, health and justice systems, building a digital society affects every facet of our lives. 

Tallinn Creative Hub (Kultuurikatel) meeting room
(photo: Annika Haas)

Europe must keep pace with technological progress and fully exploit its potential. Doing so will contribute to improving the everyday lives of citizens, businesses and member states. 

A strong single market supporting growth and jobs must be connected and keep pace with both new technological developments and the increasing digitalisation of society. Information and communications technology is no longer a specific sector; it is the backbone of all modern innovative economic systems.

The aim of the Estonian Presidency is rapidly advancing the negotiations related to delivering on the numerous legislative and other proposals under the single market strategy and the Digital Single Market Strategy.

The digital single market is inconceivable without the free movement of data (PDF, 56 KB) within the EU. While the Estonian Presidency pursues a limited number of specific objectives under this explicit heading, the free movement of data is also a broader goal that is reflected in all of the chapters of our digital programme.

The Estonian Presidency also works with the EU's partners to help them reap the dividends of digital solutions both through EU Development Policy tools and bilateral agreements, focusing on Eastern Partnership countries, but working also with the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States and Latin American countries.

The cross-sectoral digital agenda of the Estonian Presidency has five inter-linked themes that are common to the dossiers we are dealing with: Free Movement of Data; Smart Economy; eCommerce; eGovernment; Trust and Security. The priorities and ambition of each theme will be highlighted and linked to a specific file for your convenience.

Digital events

Estonia's role as the Presidency of the Council of the European Union is to find common ground on politically charged topics and to be a moderator and negotiator for all member states. Together we can create a more united and stronger Europe by building consensus and finding solutions. 

Likewise, every Council configuration and more than 50 events consider the aspects of building a digital society – because across the board, Europe should be more digital.

As stated in the Rome Declaration, it is essential for Europe to embrace technological change to ensure a prosperous and sustainable Europe. The Tallinn Digital Summit on 29 September 2017 is an exciting event in terms of discussions on the digital issues that are affecting our jobs, industries, education, and security.

At the conclusion of each paragraph there is a list of policy-related events – see the latest event updates on the Estonian Presidency webpage.

Digital legacy

In cooperation with the Council of the EU and our trio Presidency partners, Bulgaria and Austria, the Digital Presidency initiative has been launched with two primary goals. Firstly, reducing the amount of paper documents in presidency activities, and secondly, encouraging the use of electronic identity in the work processes of both the Council Secretariat and the Presidency. The full benefits of this initiative will be felt by future presidencies.

To pave the way, we developed an IT solution called the Presidency Gateway, which is designed to aid the work of the delegates and includes several digital tools under one roof. The platform hosts organisational information regarding events taking place in Estonia (including agendas and venues), as well as a document repository for housing the most up-to-date versions of related documents, thereby mitigating the need for sending documents via email and creating a foundation for paper-free presidencies, something which will save time, money and valuable resources.

We welcome you to Tallinn to experience the outcomes of the Digital Presidency for yourself!

A number of different digital solutions used by the Estonian Presidency offered tools for carrying out interactive tasks such as polls and group work during the events themselves. For example, the official Presidency Gateway tool and the stand-alone Worksup solution.

The Presidency is a unique opportunity to envisage Europe's digital future in new and inspiring ways. Alongside the programme of discussions, practical applications of several future technologies were on show, including self-driving cars and a 360-degree virtual videodome. A digital concept art exhibition also reveals a glimpse further into the future, imagining what Europe will be like 100 years after the Treaty of Rome. 

Sincerely yours!
The Estonian Digital Team 

Free Movement of Data - the free movement of data is essential for the development of a digital society

With technological progress, data has become a resource and a key driver of social development and economic growth. The EU is in the early stage of a data-driven economy. The Estonian Presidency stresses the need to develop a digital society in all areas of life. The digital single market is inconceivable without the free movement of data within the EU. While the Estonian Presidency has a number of specific objectives under this heading, the free movement of data is also a broader goal that is reflected in all of the chapters of our digital programme.

The European Union should end the unjustified location restrictions of non-personal data, achieve legal clarity on the ownership of non-personal data, and ensure the reliable storage and exchange of data in the public sector based on the once-only principle. The Estonian Presidency included a broad debate on the free movement of data and on measures to boost the data economy, including through a joint informal meeting of competitiveness and telecommunications ministers that discussed the free movement of data and emerging issues such as data reuse and access. (TTE telecom, COMPET).

As a more particular example, Estonia also held discussions on the free movement of data in the health sector (PDF, 1 058 KB). The calculated use of e-health solutions support the general targets of the health policies of member states, so that people will be healthier, and health systems will be sustainable and more manageable. We also want to be the origin of the discussion of the promotion of cooperation and coordination on e-health in order to create the necessary preconditions for the wider use and cross-border movement of health data for the purposes of treatment, research and innovation and to promote data-based innovation in healthcare. To this end, we focus the EU cooperation on practical solutions that give people electronic access to, and greater control over, the use of their health data as well as enabling them to consent to the secure sharing of their health data for the purposes of e-services. (EPSCO).

Digital solutions help patients assume a greater role in making decisions concerning their health, as well as making treatments more precise and better adjusted to individual needs. In order to bring mobile applications into wider use in healthcare, attention should be paid to the quality, security and compatibility issues of these solutions. Due to the increased role of smart devices and mobile applications in our everyday lives, large volumes of health and lifestyle data is created, the potential of which should be better utilised, while also enhancing the integrated use of data from various sources. Secure sharing of health data between healthcare service providers, and for the purposes of research and innovation, is necessary for providing safe and effective healthcare services. At the same time, it is important to pay attention to the issues of data protection and cybersecurity, so that health data can be used in a safe and secure way and not to be held from use. Health ministers discussed e-health issues in July at an informal meeting and in October at a high-level conference. We also proposed Council conclusions on digital health for the adoption at the December EPSCO Council. (EPSCO).

In order to make it possible for people to receive their benefits more rapidly when moving between member states, we consider it important to support the project initiated by the European Commission on the electronic exchange of social security data between member states. The Estonian Presidency will organise a regional (Baltic States and Nordic Countries) workshop, where we plan to make the first data exchange with real data. (EPSCO).  




Smart Economy - High-speed, high-quality and widely available internet connection is the mainstay of a smart data-driven economy

A smart economy is based on the interoperability of data resources and digital technologies for the purpose of achieving economic success and the well-being of citizens. In order to promote the smart economy in Europe, we need to focus on the initiatives that contribute to the technology-based, universal digitalisation of the economy.

In creating a favourable environment for new services, it is important to ensure modern, accessible and secure electronic communications across Europe by taking a major step forward towards a Gigabit Society that will require fast, always-on, always-available connectivity. The proposed European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) presents a major overhaul of telecommunications rules to prepare Europe for the era of 5G. The code should promote investment, competition and the development of new services. Swift progress on the Code is the main legislative priority of the Estonian Presidency in the Telecommunications Council. The Estonian Presidency has aimed to agree on a general approach on the Code and start the negotiations with the European Parliament. The Estonian Presidency has also aimed to reach a general approach on the BEREC regulation. (TTE telecom).

Electronic communications
Photo: Valdek Laur

It should be easy to start a business in the European Union. By utilising the opportunities of the information society, all operators should be able to carry out all company activities - from establishment to winding up the operation - to the specific extent possible by means of digital technology. The Estonian Presidency wishes to actively proceed with discussions on developments in company law and start negotiations on the Commission’s upcoming reform package. (COMPET). 

Boosting the cross-border provision of services will have a direct positive impact on the economy as a whole, support the set up and expansion of businesses and offer greater choice and better prices for consumers. We need to unleash the full potential of the single market in services by simplifying administrative formalities for businesses and making the most of the opportunities offered by digital technologies. It is therefore Estonia's objective to make significant progress in negotiations on the services package, including the general approach concerning the services e-card (EU e-card framework proposal; EU e-card services proposal). (COMPET).

A horizontal priority has been set to work towards eliminating the obstacles to the digitalisation of transport to achieve a seamless and more effective transport system in Europe. The Estonian Presidency has worked toward Council conclusions on the digitalisation of the EU transport sector. These conclusions provide a solid link with current and future legislative proposals contributing to the digitalisation of the transport sector. Digitalisation should primarily be seen as a tool to bring about further efficiency and administrative simplification within and between the transport modes. (TTE transport).


The overarching energy policy narrative of the Estonian Presidency will include a strong connection to the Estonian Presidency’s horizontal digital priority. The Estonian Presidency proposes a public-private partnership declaration on digitialising the energy sector. Digitalisation has the capacity to empower consumers and sustainable energy transition like no other policy. (TTE energy).

The Estonian Presidency promotes the mainstreaming of industrial policy into EU strategic initiatives and furthers discussions on a way forward in strengthening the competitiveness of EU industry. For the same purpose, the Estonian Presidency has advanced the related initiatives supporting the uptake of new technologies and digitalisation, as well as follow up on the Start-up and Scale-up Initiative. (COMPET).

In the field of space, the Estonian Presidency contributed to the discussions about the future of the EU space programme Copernicus. For this purpose the Estonian Presidency has worked on Council conclusions on the Copernicus mid-term evaluation and has also organised an EU-ESA informal ministerial meeting on space in Tallinn in November 2017. The topic of the meeting includes the perspectives on the future of the Earth Observation in Europe in the years of 2020+. (COMPET). 

Council conclusions also cover the results of the interim evaluation of the implementation of the 2014-2016 European satellite navigation programmes Galileo and EGNOS, aimed at establishing a concise link between past lessons learned and developing a long-term vision and ambition for future programmes. (TTE).

In a world of ever-intensifying production, development that preserves the environment must also take place to ensure that each innovation in production and reshaping of consumption patterns and economic development is environmentally friendly. Eco-innovation, or innovative smart solutions that reduce the environmental impact of production, business models, consumption, and which shape the living environment at the local level are one of the priorities of the Estonian Presidency. Estonia hosted several important international events and dedicated the month of October 2017 to highlighting various aspects of eco-innovation, including hackathons on the circular economy and climate change, and the high-level flagship conference 'Nature-based solutions: From innovation to common-use'. Ultimately, we aimed to adopt Council conclusions on eco-innovation at the Environment Council scheduled for December. Our objective is providing a coherent framework that would link several upcoming communications from the European Commission with efforts on behalf of member states to promote the wider use of eco-innovative solutions. (ENVI).

One of the goals of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is the restoration of degraded land and soil. The EU has both the need and potential for the more effective protection of soils as a resource, as the current policy only contributes to this goal indirectly. Estonia launched a broad-based discussion on the protection of agricultural soil and its importance in sustainable food production. In this regard, Estonia has emphasised the importance of the greater use of digital soil data at EU level. During the Estonian Presidency, a high-level conference with the aim of drawing attention to the sustainable use of soils from the agricultural perspective was also held. (AGRIFISH).

It is also necessary to take into account that the economy and the labour market of the EU are constantly changing. Issues relating to new forms of work created by changes in society and growing technological opportunities are topical subjects for workers, employers and policy-shapers. These issues were discussed at the high-level conference on the future of work, held in Tallinn. The discussions focused on the changes in how we work and the challenges this presents to working conditions, social security, and the skills necessary for the labour market, as well as the potential e-solutions that the state could provide. We also prepared the conclusions of the Council of the EU on this topic. The future of work is also the topic of the informal meeting of the Employment Committee (EMCO) in Tallinn. (EPSCO).

In addition to broad discussion on the future of work and the accompanying opportunities, including national e-solutions we have contributed to creating better opportunities for people with special needs to participate in community life. To that end, we need to achieve a speedy agreement on the Accessibility Act, to which Estonia, during the Estonian Presidency, has contributed significantly. The legal framework created with the directive will help the EU and member states meet the obligations arising from the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Furthermore, making the cross-border provision of accessible products and services easier for companies contributes to innovation and economic growth. (EPSCO).

Education, office
Photo: Tõnu Tunnel

In addition to the changed nature of work Estonia has focused on the modernisation of education and the labour market to ensure that knowledge and skills, including digital skills, are keeping up with these changes. In order to strengthen Europe’s competitiveness, it is essential to invest in the development of skills and to move forward with the initiatives triggered by the New Skills Agenda and subsequent Commission initiatives on youth and education. As the holder of the Presidency of the Council of the EU, Estonia has focused on creating better links between education and the labour market; and reviewed the Europass Decision to achieve better implementation and synergy between digital tools designed for documenting people’s skills and qualifications and to modernise these tools for the digital age. (EYCS).


e-Commerce - The development of e-commerce and e-services broadens the choice for Europeans

The Estonian Presidency focuses on the development of cross-border e-commerce and e-services for the benefit of both consumers and companies.

A precondition for well-functioning e-commerce in Europe is the protection of consumer interests wherever they may be. In order to end unjustified geo-blocking in the EU, the Estonian Presidency finalised the approval of the regulation on unjustified geo-blocking within the Single Market. (COMPET). The absence of uniform contract law rules on the supply of digital content and internet sales is a barrier to e-commerce. Estonia sought to move forward with negotiations on a contract law package (implementation progress report; temporary boarder control recommendation) to ensure legal certainty and clarity for entrepreneurs and consumers engaged in cross-border trade. The directive on digital content updates European contract law by taking into account the characteristics of the modern shopping environment and technological development. (JHA). 

As copyright law must keep up with the development of digital solutions, Estonia also sought to move forward with copyright reform. Under new market conditions, cross-border access to a wider variety of digital content protected by copyright should be further facilitated by such measures as levelling the free use regulation of protected works, while ensuring the functioning of a fair market in terms of copyright. The Estonian Presidency aimed to achieve as much as possible on the directive on copyright in the digital single market and the regulation on broadcasting organisations. (COMPET).

In the audiovisual field one of the most important targets of the Estonian Presidency is the renewal of the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive and reaching the necessary agreements with the European Parliament. The updating of the legal area of audiovisual media services contributes to ensuring the fair treatment of market participants; creates favourble conditions for the development of such services and gives consumers more choice. The directive is a part of the EU Digital Single Market Strategy, which aims to bring up-to-date the movement of content services  on different platforms and create a coherent and more favourable and flexible legal environment for the development and distribution of services in the digital era. The updated regulation is based on the common values, aims and principles of the EU in order to ensure a more equal treatment of providers of audiovisual media services and greater legal certainty to all participants. This, in turn, fosters more favourable conditions for the emergence and development of new services, providing consumers with more interesting content and choice. (EYCS).

One of the objectives of the Digital Single Market Strategy is ensuring fair competition for businesses. For us it also means that with respect to taxation we need to create a level playing field for all businesses operating in the internal market. We have used the framework of the Common Corporate Tax  Base (CCTB) to launch a debate on how to modernise the corporate income tax rules in a way that would take into account the new business models using digital technology. Our target has been gaps in the current tax rules, which enable taxpayers, who are using digital assets and solutions for conducting their business, to legally avoid paying taxes in the countries where they derive their profits, while taxpayers using physical assets and solutions are also paying their fair share of taxes to the budgets of the market or source countries. Some aspects of corporate income tax rules were discussed at the Currents Issues in European Tax Law conference. (ECOFIN).

The development of cross-border e-commerce also makes it necessary to modernise VAT for cross-border e-commerce (amendment proposal (taxes); amendment proposal (tax fraud) in order to facilitate cross-border e-commerce for SMEs, combat VAT fraud and ensure a level playing field between EU businesses and businesses of third countries. Estonia made solid progress on the initiative on VAT for e-commerce, an agreement on the main elements of the proposal will be sought. Also, Estonia worked to conclude discussions on VAT rates for e-books and e-publications.  (ECOFIN).

The Estonian Presidency also contributed to the continuation of outlining the governance reform of the Customs Union and for the adoption of Council conclusions on this subject, particularly considering the establishment of central structure for managing IT infrastructure that would assure the sustainable and cost efficient electronic systems. (ECOFIN).

In the field of Postal Services, the ambition of the Estonian Presidency was concluding negotiations on the Regulation on Parcel delivery. (TTE telecom).

The Estonian Presidency also focuses on cross-border challenges in reducing the damage caused by alcohol, which can be solved rationally through cooperation between states (bilaterally, regionally, across the EU). There was an evaluation at the informal meeting of health ministers in July of the progress of the initiatives implemented in the EU so far and the main cross-border challenges of the coming years (like cross-border advertising including in social media, cross-border trade, labelling of alcoholic drinks) were discussed. These topics were also included at the expert level during the conference 'Cross-Border Aspects in Alcohol Policy – Tackling Harmful Use of Alcohol' held in October, and there have been Council conclusions proposed on these issues. (EPSCO).


e-Government - Public e-services also simplify cross-border formalities

We should expect public services to keep pace with digital transformation. Cross-border public services are particularly important for Europe, as they remove significant barriers for citizens and businesses. The 'EU e-government Action Plan 2016-2020'  aims to develop well-functioning cross-border digital public services to reduce the administrative burden on businesses and citizens by making their interactions with public administrations easier and faster. The Estonian Presidency adheres to the efficient implementation of the action plan and seeks to accelerate the take-up of electronic identification (eID) and trust services.

Estonia gave attention to the application of eGovernment principles in the initiatives launched in all sectors. The Estonian Presidency also launched a forward-looking debate on long-term European plans for e-government, culminating in October in a ministerial meeting and declaration on eGovernment – a common understanding of member states on how to achieve an efficient eGovernment in the EU, and also in the cross-border context. Estonia strives for an eGovernment supporting the single market and built on the important principles of a well-functioning digital society: the digital by default, once-only, and no-legacy principles, and the free movement of data. (TTE telecom).

The Single Digital Gateway for simplifying cross-border service provision is also an important means of fostering entrepreneurship. It makes it easier for companies to enter the markets of other member states, to navigate these markets and to obtain information about local rules and public services. The Estonian Presidency strongly believes that information on key procedures and services should be usable across-borders and available online for people and companies. The Estonian Presidency sought to advance the discussions on the Single Digital Gateway. (COMPET).

Today, information technology is widely used in judicial procedures and to provide European Union citizens with better access to justice. It has been the intention of the Estonian Presidency to improve the quality of European Union law, by making it more evidence-based and inclusive. Therefore, we wish to create better possibilities for European Union citizens and companies to protect their rights in cross-border communication through practical electronic e-justice solutions. We have worked to ensure a sustainable solution to the administration of cross-border IT systems in the justice sector (e-CODEX), and for the rapid progress of the discussions on the future regulation of the e-CODEX during the Estonian Presidency. (JHA).

Digital governement
Photo: Valdek Laur

The Estonian Presidency considers the subject of better regulation horizontally important. The Estonian Presidency intends to contribute effectively to the implementation of the Inter-institutional Agreement on Better Law-Making. In addition, the Estonian Presidency has focused on the digital dimension of Better Regulation, by sharing best e-governance practices and promoting e-solutions in order to simplify the life of European citizens and the business environment. (COMPET).

In general, Estonia supports discussions on adopting effective control measures that take into account modern, digital opportunities. We support the utilisation of new e-solutions and plan to organise a conference concerning the agriculture sector in cooperation with the European Commission to discuss the information management system for official controls (IMSOC) in food safety, one of the benefits of which is improving the data exchange between different control authorities. (AGRIFISH).

Estonia has utilised the opportunities provided by modern communication and information technologies, such as the interoperability of information systems and the improved quality of data exchange in accordance with common European Union data protection rules, to prevent and thwart crime and to enhance the security of the external borders of the Schengen area, while maintaining smooth border crossing.

In order to make the control and surveillance of the EU’s external borders more efficient and to secure more detailed information on third-country nationals entering or leaving the European Union, Estonia sought an agreement on the new European Entry/Exit system (EES proposal EES amendment proposal 2) for registering border crossings by third country nationals. The Estonian Presidency has, mainly, the role of concluding the process. (JHA).

Another objective was reaching the final stage of negotiations on the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), which is designed to register the crossing of the external border of the EU by visa-exempt third country nationals and identify any possible security, migration and public health risks associated with visa-exempt travellers wishing to enter the Schengen area before they arrive at the external borders. Estonia’s aim was to conclude the political trilogues. (JHA).

Law enforcement authorities should be able to exchange more precise information on criminals. Estonia has focused on modernising the second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II) (SIS regulation proposal; SIS regulation amendment proposal; SIS regulation repeal proposal), which is the main tool for data and information exchange between police, border control and customs authorities. Reviewing the legal basis for SIS II is necessary in order to increase the interoperability of border management and the police cooperation systems that are being used or will be developed. The proposed amendments to SIS II improve the functions of the system and enable the extensive use of biometric data for making inquiries and verifying identities. Entering return decisions into the Schengen Information System is equally important in order to make the implementation of such decisions more effective. The aim of the Estonian Presidency is achieving, during the Estonian Presidency, an EU Council common approach that enables the start, and maybe even conclusion, of negotiations with the European Parliament. (JHA).

Member states should be able to exchange criminal records information in order to effectively prevent and fight crime. The exchange of criminal records minimises the opportunity for criminals to hide their crimes by moving from one member state to another. Our aim is moving towards the general approach of the Council on the draft legislation extending the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) (ECRIS - TCN regulation proposal;  ECRIS amendment proposal)to enable the exchange of information on third-country nationals. (JHA).

Currently, the data held by EU border control and security authorities is fragmented and this is hindering their work. The best way to enhance information exchange is to make the information systems (Eurodac, SIS II, VIS, EES, ETIAS, ECRIS etc.) interoperable and facilitate clearly defined and justified access by authorities to the data held in these information systems. During Estonia's Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Estonia has continued working on database interoperability solutions suggested in the communication of the European Commission , including establishing a common data repository (main module) as a long-term target. It is also important to achieve a common approach that would enable better access to databases for law enforcement agencies. (JHA).

Tallinn Airport
Photo: Sven Zacek

Reviewing the eu-LISA regulation and extending eu-LISA’s mandate has also been one of the priorities for home affairs during the Estonian Presidency. It is in the interests of the entire EU to expand eu-LISA’s mandate by adding the tasks of managing and developing the information systems of both the justice (e-Codex) and customs procedures (the latter could come under consideration during the next stage, i.e. after 2020). Estonia worked to achieve the general approach of the Council regarding the eu-LISA regulation by the end of the Estonian Presidency. (JHA).

The deadline for member states to transpose the passenger name record (PNR) directive is Spring 2018. During the Estonian Presidency, Estonia worked to contribute however possible to transposing and implementing the directive in member states (particularly by supporting the cooperation and training of passenger name record units). The use of passenger name records in the fight against terrorism and serious and organised crime is important particularly for cooperation with our partners in third countries. In the very near future, an assessment from the European Court of Justice on the legality of using passenger name records is expected, which could impact the implementation of the PNR directive. Estonia’s aim is to ensure the continuation of the data exchange necessary for preventing terrorism and fighting against serious crime. Estonia also worked to discuss extending the PNR data exchange to other forms of transport, like sea travel. (JHA).

Through the Prüm data exchange mechanism, the member states enable mutual access to each other’s forensic biometric databases (DNA, fingerprints) and vehicle register data (VRD) for the purposes of law enforcement and the fight against terrorism. In addition to implementing the Prüm Treaty in force, Estonia worked to initiate a discussion on improving the Prüm data exchange and potentially extending it to other data categories during the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. (JHA).

In 2016, the amendments to the directive on fighting the illegal spread of firearms were adopted. As one step, Estonia initiated a discussion on making the exchange of information on firearms more effective, and whether to create a dedicated database or use existing ones (e.g. SIS II). (JHA).

An economically sustainable and competitive Europe must open up new opportunities for young people by promoting the development of competences, inclusion, active participation and voluntary activities in society. To achieve these objectives, Estonian has highlighted the role of smart youth work. Smart youth work creates through digital solutions and innovation, new opportunities for reaching out to young people, involving them, and understanding them better. Estonia worked to inspire member states to pursue this issue by introducing the concept of smart youth work in Europe, and preparing the Council conclusions on smart youth work. In addition, during Estonia’s Presidency, discussions occured on the common ground for EU cooperation in the field of youth work and youth policy from 2019 onwards. (EYCS).

Regarding culture, Estonia concentrated on access to culture in the digital era, with a focus on audience development. Digital technologies have changed the ways people access, use and produce cultural content. The conference on cultural heritage took place in July and looked at the challenge of linking cultural heritage with social innovation and economic development. (EYCS).

Estonia promotes the principles of the digital single market in the EU’s external policies where possible. Estonia contributes to the uptake of digital solutions and technologies by systematically and horizontally promoting the use of digital solutions through the EU development policy. (FAC Development)

Estonia encourages the promotion of the digital sector, including e-government and e-services, to facilitate the implementation of better and more transparent governance in EU partner countries. Special attention has been paid to the Eastern Partnership countries and their uptake of digital policies, in line with developments inside the EU.

As regards the Europe's southern neighbourhood and beyond, the EU-Africa Summit scheduled for the end of November 2017 provides an excellent opportunity to promote the digitalisation in the African countries as enabler for development, including through creation of employment, developing skills and promoting democracy and transparency. In this context, Estonia is closely engaged in the organization of the Digital Business Forum that takes place at the margins of the Summit. A renewed EU-Africa partnership offers opportunities for various forms of cooperation, including in the fields of innovation, technology, e-governance, youth and education. We also continued to work also with the Caribbean and Pacific states by helping to reap the dividends of digital solutions both through EU Development Policy tools and bilateral agreements. Estonia also organized an event on e-governance at the margins of the EU-CELAC Summit late October, in order to promote the use of digital solutions in governance. (FAC).


Trust and security - Trust and security are crucial for the development of a digital society

The development of a digital society has opened up many new opportunities, but also requires us to address the risks that can arise from the malicious use of technology. Considering the drastically changed international security environment and the rapid evolution of technologies and markets, it is more important than ever to develop a long-term vision for EU cybersecurity in order to ensure trust in the digital single market and its core values. In cyberspace, Europe must stand by its values and protect its security. First and foremost, we should see developing trust and security as further enablers of digital transformation.

Four years have passed since the adoption of the current EU Cybersecurity Strategy. Developing the EU strategic vision for cybersecurity and reviewing the EU Cybersecurity Strategy - will enable us to develop common priorities among member states for making the EU better protected against cyber-attacks, prepared to respond and more efficient in bringing cybercriminals to justice. The General Affairs Council will agree on Conclusions on the Review of the EU Cybersecurity Strategy.  (TTE telecom; GAC). 

Strengthening the EU cybersecurity industry is important to stimulate the development of cybersecurity products and secure-by-design EU products, which taken together will also decrease the EU member states dependence on security technologies developed outside the Union. It is also especially important to develop European competence for assessing the security of commercial cryptographic solutions. These are at the core of digital products and services that are used by citizens, businesses and governments. The Estonian Presidency will encourage all stakeholders to develop measures on cybersecurity standards, certification and labelling, to make ICT-based systems, including connected objects, more cyber secure. These measures could have great potential for decreasing the fragmentation of the digital single market, while helping to raise awareness among consumers and companies of the importance of meeting cybersecurity requirements. 

Digital solutions
Photo: Rasmus Jurkatam

In order to achieve these goals efficiently, it is important to ensure clear institutional mandates at the EU level and well-defined responsibilities among the EU bodies. Updating the mandate of the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) is an important step forward. Estonia, along with the Presidency trio works towards a strong ENISA that adds valuable contribution with fully representing the competences and capabilities of the member states and builds its work on them, while becoming closer to EU policy-making in Brussels. The Estonian Presidency worked towards the progress report on the ENISA Mandate and Regulatory Framework. (TTE telecom).

Keeping Europe safe and secure requires building trust and security in the digital domain. One of the cornerstones of the digital single market is data protection. In January 2012, the European Commission started a comprehensive reform of data protection in the EU. Bringing the ePrivacy legislation in line with today’s needs and with the objectives of the data protection reform will contribute to increasing the level of trust. Estonia worked to move forward with the negotiations on the  ePrivacy Regulation and to produce a progress report. (TTE telecom) Estonia also made efforts to rapidly conclude the negotiations with the European Parliament on the regulation dealing with the protection of individuals in processing personal data in the institutions, bodies and agencies of the EU.As the holders of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, we facilitated the EU’s accession to the additional protocol of the Council of Europe convention on data protection (Convention 108). (JHA).

It is necessary to carry out further analysis of the rules on the retention of communications data at the EU level. We discussed this topic both at the technical and the political level. (JHA).

An effective fight against terrorism is not possible without retaining electronic evidence and communications data. Enhancing criminal justice in cyberspace, improving the availability of electronic evidence in particular, would make collecting evidence in cross-border criminal procedures much more effective. The European Union needs unified and clear rules for the jurisdiction of cyberspace in order to collect e-evidence. (JHA). 

As regards combating counterfeiting and fraud of non-cash means of payment, upon the initiative of the European Commission and we aimed to start discussions in working groups. (JHA). 

The EU needs to be able to have a political response to malicious cyber activities; therefore the trio Presidency’s priority is to finalise the Framework for a Joint EU Diplomatic Response to Malicious Cyber Activities. This will bridge the gap between shared situational awareness and the political decision-making, including actions on the EU level. The trio Presidency aims to finalise the discussion on the Framework during the Estonian Presidency and prepare and conduct a Cyber Diplomacy Exercise on the Framework activation during the Bulgarian and Austrian Presidencies, planned in 2018. (FAC).

A clear European institutional cyber ecosystem is also a requirement for the functioning of a framework for a Joint EU Diplomatic Response to Malicious Cyber Activities. Besides creating conditions for strengthening the cybersecurity of the member states, the EU will have also to ensure that its own networks and systems are properly protected and well prepared in case of a large scale cyber-attack against EU institutions, agencies and bodies. The cyber-resilience of CSDP missions and operations is also very important for the trio Presidency; therefore, the Estonian Presidency conducted a table-top exercise during the informal meeting of defence ministers. (FAC).

All the tools at the disposal of the EU and NATO are required to tackle hybrid, strategic communication and cyber threats. Estonia supports EU-NATO cooperation through practical actions in accordance with the EU-NATO joint declaration of 2016 (PDF, 674 KB) and contributes to the cooperation objectives in the field of cyberdefence, including organising mutually open and coordinated military exercises. (FAC).