04 Dec
European Council Norbert Hofer

Digital Europe programme: European Council agrees its position

The EU is setting up a new funding programme, Digital Europe, to be launched in 2021 to support the digital transformation of Europe’s societies and economies. The Council today agreed its position (‘partial general approach’) on the proposal, which aims to increase large-scale deployment of key digital technologies and encourage their uptake.

Today’s agreement excludes budget-related and horizontal issues which are currently being discussed as part of the negotiations on the EU’s next multiannual financial framework (MFF) covering the period 2021 to 2027. It also excludes a number of elements related to ongoing legislative proposals discussed in different Council configurations.

This programme will help ensure that the benefits of the digital transformation will reach all citizens and businesses. It will boost investment in crucial areas such as cutting-edge cybersecurity tools and artificial-intelligence-based innovations.

Norbert Hofer (in the picture), Minister for Transport, Innovation and Technology of Austria, President of the Council, has said that “the Digital Europe programme will provide funding for projects in five areas: supercomputing, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, advanced digital skills, and ensuring wide use of digital technologies across the economy and society“.

Funding for projects to build up high-performance computing would benefit areas such as healthcare, car safety and renewable energy. With EU support, public authorities and even the smallest businesses would have better access to artificial intelligence testing facilities, which would help spread the use of AI. Funding would also be given for cyber defence and state-of-the-art cybersecurity equipment.

Digital skills training

The programme will support advanced digital skills training for the current and future workforce, as well as for small and medium-sized enterprises and public administrations. The provision of financing would help bring about the digital transformation of public administrations and enhance the EU-wide interoperability of public services. The programme also reinforces the network of Digital Innovation Hubs providing access to technological expertise for businesses, in particular SMEs, and public administrations.

The Council text has developed and clarified the implementation and governance of the programme, for example by specifying those actions which should be implemented directly by a Commission implementing act and those which should be implemented by another entity such as a joint undertaking.

Digital Europe will be complementary to a number of other programmes supporting digital transformation, such as Horizon Europe and the digital aspects of the Connecting Europe Facility.

The text agreed today is the Council’s position for negotiations with the European Parliament. Both institutions have to agree on the text before it can enter into force.

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