As part of the 2015 GLOBSEC Innovation and Cybersecurity Forum, on June 20, 2015 CEPI organized a roundtable with State Secretaries for EU affairs of the V4 countries. Peter Javorčík of Slovak Republic, Tomáš Prouza of the Czech Republic and Szabolcs Takács from Hungary (with Poland’s Rafal Trzaskowski sending an apology letter for not attending) discussed achievements on the V4 digital agenda as well as region’s needs and recommendations on the EC’s Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy. Panelists agreed that Slovakia’s V4 Presidency made a remarkable effort in incorporating digital agenda into regional cooperation, and initiating joint policy coordination on DSM at the EU level. They also reflected on Europe’s geo-economic deficit in digital sector behind the United States and Asia, and what could the V4 governments do to advance this region’s competitiveness within the DSM framework. The roundtable, chaired by CEPI Director Milan Nič, also brought to attention a policy brief “Four priorities for the Visegrad Four’s digital agenda” written by a CEPI led consortium of four V4 NGOs.
Although it has only been a year since the digital agenda is among the priorities of the Visegrad Group, a number of significant and tangible achievements can already be named. First, V4 countries have focused on the promotion and support of start-ups in the region. Second, V4 countries presented a joint non-paper for the EU commission expressing their shared views on the European digital market. Third, V4 countries signed a memorandum on the establishment of a patent institute. After it is ratified by the Parliaments, the institute will help accelerate innovation in the region.
The Czech Republic is set to continue with joint coordination in digital agenda as it assumes the Visegrad Group Presidency in July 2015. In general, V4 countries should be aiming to create a flexible and efficient regulation framework. The rules should not be too prescriptive and burdensome but should facilitate entrepreneurship and innovation. It is also important to identify all the stakeholders and have a meaningful dialogue with them regarding the needs of the digital sector. Furthermore, the countries should focus on improving their digital infrastructure.
Hungary, in addition to supporting the goals and activities of the V4 digital agenda, is taking steps on a national level to promote digital innovation. He also shared how Hungary succeeded in keeping many of its productive digital businesses at home. Takacs emphasized that the government’s effort in improving digital infrastructure and the regulation framework sends an important message to digital entrepreneurs. More and more businesses read it as an indication of the determination of the government and as a result these businesses are increasingly making decisions to stay in the region.
The discussants also focused on several persisting stumbling blocks addressed by the DSM strategy, such as geo-blocking. Many disagreements also persist among the EU member states regarding the balance of privacy, security, and consumer protection. Other primary areas of concern for the V4 countries include the issues of copyright, joint registration of VAT, legal conditions for cross-border commerce, and insufficient teaching of digital skills in schools curricula