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Europe – Asia Center

Press Release: Charting the Future: High-Level Dialogue on Elevating EU-Asia Digital Connectivity


Brussels, 21st June 2024 – Digital connectivity dependent on quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and data governance are becoming an integral part of our modern-day society. Providing further insight, the latest edition of East meets West webinar series raised the topic of “Charting the Future: High-level dialogue on Elevating EU-Asia Digital Connectivity”.


In recent years, the digital landscape has become an integral part of European life, revolutionizing various sectors and redefining societal norms. While digital transformation brings undeniable benefits, it also introduces new challenges and risks, including threats to fundamental rights, democratic processes, and economic stability.

 

As Europe navigates these complexities, it has emerged as a global leader in internet governance, evidenced by landmark regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Digital Markets Act (DMA), the Digital Services Act (DSA), and the world's first AI Act.

 

With the governance of cyberspace is undergoing significant evolution, driven by the proliferation of interconnected devices and advancements in artificial intelligence – the transformation sparked a geostrategic competition for control over digital connectivity, highlighting the need for consistent and robust governance frameworks. Amidst these developments, the European Union (EU) seeks to strengthen its strategic autonomy and collaborate with key global partners, to shape the future of digital connectivity.

 

With just recent European elections and a resulted shift in a democratic majorities, we raise the question of the implications for European digital governance. As such, is it fundamental to understand the potential ramifications of a new Parliament on the EU’s approach to managing its digital transformation and working with other states, regions and stakeholders to achieve its regulatory objectives.

 

Given the global and interconnected context of the talk, the experts at the webinar shared insights from both European and Asian context. Featured addresses included keynotes by vice-chair of the Europe – Asia Center H.E. Dr. hc. Violeta Bulc (former EU Commissioner for Transport and Mobility, deputy Prime Minister of Slovenia and former telecommunications executive) and Ms. Josianne Cutajar (Member of the EU Parliament and Member of the Committee on Industry, Research, and Energy), followed by the expert reflections by Mrs. Mireia Paulo Noguera (Head of Management of CEAC, Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence, and research associate at Ruhr-Universität of Bochum, Germany), Mr. Siriwat William Chhem (Advisor to the President of the Cambodian National Assembly and co-founder and president of the AI Forum) and Dr. Christiane Prange (Research Director at the Europe-Asia Center, Director of the Caralan Global Institute, Adjunct Professor at Zhejiang University International Business School).

 

Opening the webinar, Mr. Matic Gajšek (Director for Europe, Europe – Asia Center) highlighted the importance of technology and its advancement, as well as the necessary regulatory guidance. The need for governance in cyberspace and artificial intelligence will be crucial, particularly with the implementation of new multilateral frameworks involving all global players.

 

Regarding regulatory frameworks and government institution engagement, MEP Ms. Josianne Cutajar emphasized that a solely European perspective cannot serve as the sole means of engagement. The European Union has made large strides in specific regulatory and legal frameworks regarding AI, and it should aim for a system where smaller organizations can leverage their digital potential in an even-playing field of a market. However, being so far ahead when it comes to policies, EU should still look for further cooperation and exchanges globally. It is only through multilateral and multi-stakeholder cooperation that risks can be mitigated by raising the level of mutual understanding.

 

Mrs. Mireia Paulo Noguera, reflecting on her expertise in international law, highlighted the necessity of simplifying policies and systems when it comes to cyberspace and the involved data. Cyberattacks have exposed the need for stronger cybersecurity and much faster legislativ actions. Even though there are alliances between European and Asian countries that aim to disrupt bad-faith actors in the digital realm, in example of Japan and Korean collaborations. Such alliances nevertheless pose the challenge of misalignment on how certain data is managed or transported, which can lead to further tensions. Thus, it is vital to create a simplified global governance systems. To achieve such an ambitious goal, we as a global community must start on the grounds of commonality, including with actors with existing collaboration frameworks and with those such systemic frameworks are yet to be implemented.


As a former EU Commissioner for Transport and Mobility as well as vice president of a major telecommunications provider, H.E. Dr. hc. Violeta Bulc highlighted the significance of technology both on the level of individuals and society at large, and the impact on ecologic ecosystems.


Excellency Bulc raised an important question of: “Aren't we at the threshold where we have to decide about the future of humanity? […] I hope that it will continue to stay a tool for sustainable living on this planet Earth and not a goal. So, let's make sure that in the pursuit of even more efficiency and more services or more profit, we do not create even more negative externalities. Let us not be the first species that will destroy itself intentionally.”

 

The quality of life will be improved exponentially with the correct implementation of said technology. However, to do so, it will require a reliable and high-capacity infrastructure. The European Union is aiming for a more inclusive and engaging digital transformation with the example of access to an open-source cloud. Where data is shared between several sectors of society for the sake of advancement and development. The negative impact of digital transformation was highlighted specifically by means of the necessity of maintaining a secure and open cyberspace. There is a sensitivity towards digitalization in its continuous shaping the demands for workforce and the growing economic divides in society. The societal impact advanced digital technologies already have on our societies include examples of the fake news and deep fakes targeted especially at female leaders. It is thus only through a new multilateral and globally represented cooperation that humanity can overcome such risks.

 

Presenting the unique standpoint from one of the Asian digitalization champions, Mr. Siriwat William Chhem highlighted the South East Asian perspective, when it came to digital connectivity. The advanced technological application provided countries to leap ahead, from non- to limited digital infrastructure towards becoming one of the leaders. A practical example is the implementation of Blockchain technologies in the financial sector of South East Asian countries, all possible due to their immediate transition to the blockchain solutions versus the integration of the “middle step” of card payment infrastructure. The nations in South East Asia have a unique opportunity to learn from regional actors like China but also global actors like the United States of America and the European Union. China has made valiant and fruitful efforts in technology, with the example of the once small fishing village of Shenzhen transforming into the Chinese technological capitol within a few decades. Thus, the importance of collaboration and exchange beyond geopolitical divides will remain vital for countries such as Cambodia. It is with voices of such countries that global issues can truly receive the global perspective, diversity of ideas and insights.


On the matter of digital connectivity, the Research Director at the Europe-Asia Center, Prof. Dr. Christiane Prange, reiterated the importance of how to collaborate in cyberspace. There is a need to not focus on only different problems and different institutions, but on the transversal approaches for the governance of such complex ecosystems. Despite (geo-)politics playing a major role in how global actors engage with one another, especially in the realm of technology and data, different sectors and disciplines are required in such engagements. Companies and industry clusters play an important role in how technology develops and is implemented. The role of technological advancement in lifting the standards of living, particularly in the Global South, making it an important consideration in global governance context. With example of China, their successful deployment of technology has now also extended towards the African continent. The Asia-Africa connection is a new chapter in technological engagement and of significant importance in global dialogue. Transversality is the key word for the future of engagement, as we need to acknowledge that the concept and methods of Silicon Valley cannot be transplanted one-to-one to a different region of the world and be an instant success. There is a need for different ideas, perspectives, and local approaches. Since these localized approaches can be brought to an international stage and improve the overall situation.




For press enquiries: 


Jonathan Schwestka, Project Coordinator, Europe – Asia Center


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