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Procedure : 2005/2167(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A6-0036/2006

Texts tabled :

A6-0036/2006

Debates :

PV 14/03/2006 - 5
CRE 14/03/2006 - 5

Votes :

PV 14/03/2006 - 11.4
CRE 14/03/2006 - 11.4
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P6_TA(2006)0079

Debates
Tuesday, 14 March 2006 - Strasbourg OJ edition

5. A European information society for growth and employment (debate)
PV
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  President. The next item is the report (A6-0036/2006) by Reino Paasilinna, on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, on a European information society for growth and employment (2005/2167(INI)).

 
  
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  Reino Paasilinna (PSE), rapporteur. (FI) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, when I started drafting the report the telecommunications sector was in a rather miserable state. Most Member States had not yet even delivered their national communications on the progress they had made in implementation. The situation now is better: all the national communications are with the Commission, and in almost every Member State five directives have come into force one way or another. Meanwhile, however, many Member States have been protecting their monopolies for many years, and so they have had the money to penetrate the markets in those Member States which opened up their markets on time.

Nevertheless, these directives are already obsolete. This industry is developing at such a rate that new legislation is necessary to guarantee the viability and development of the market and its potential for providing employment. For this reason, it is good that the Commission has decided to propose the i2010 strategy, which aims to create a viable common knowledge-based area. We need to safeguard investment and appropriations for research, and all Europeans need to have access to this system, including the poor.

Technology changes more rapidly than legislation, and this is why I adhered to the basic premise that the strategy proposed in my report should be as transparent as possible, and that technology should be neutral. This will allow it to create incentives for access to the market for all kinds of new inventions and alternatives, and also competitors. We will change the world more with technology than with politics. But who should lead this change? We should be talking about the ubiquitous information society. Information and communication technology no longer mean audiovisual technology. Information is transmitted, for example, between a tyre and a car, between a refrigerator and portable terminal equipment, a wallet and a key ring, home air-conditioning and a navigator. We are, then, dealing with digital technology, which is present everywhere all the time.

How much cleverer is a person in intelligent clothing? He is a mobile source of, and a target for, information. I just wonder when we will be starting to control him like a robot. Digital technology also makes life for many very easy, with the result that we are starting to look for stimulation outside this environment. It has been calculated that 80% of our national wealth is intangible, which is to say education, knowledge, administration, and just 3% is made up of natural resources. It is therefore alarming that in that 80% range we are lagging with indifference behind our competitors. We are not investing, not researching, and not implementing directives properly and at an acceptable rate. It is only mainly the Nordic countries and one or two others that are exceptions to this trend.

Information and communications technology is the fastest growing sector of industry. It creates most jobs in industry. Unless we pull ourselves together, disaster awaits us. Those investing in the sector will look for their partners in countries such as China and India, and the old declining economies, which is to say us here in Europe, will be left behind. Already highly trained people from China and India are entering this sector, a lot more than from Europe. The day before yesterday the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development warned Europe about this change. Is it not then time to act, ladies and gentlemen, as the Commission is also suggesting?

Some amendments have been made to my report. My colleague, Mrs Riera Madurell, and I drafted three of them, which can be kept in the form of these summarised versions, as compromises. Their purpose is to take clear account of equality between women and men and the opinion of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, but to shorten this opinion slightly. I hope this approach will be looked upon favourably. Furthermore, my colleague, Mr Guidoni, has drafted a few amendments, which we on the committee voted against, mainly because of a translation error. I also believe that I am able to support them.

 
  
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  Viviane Reding, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I shall firstly express my thanks to Parliament and particularly to its rapporteur, Mr Paasilinna, for his very detailed report. He has been working very closely with the other rapporteurs and has gathered their opinions. To all of them I express my thanks.

It is very encouraging to see that Parliament shares the Commission’s main concerns and the policy priorities for the information society over the next five years. As the various committees and rapporteurs have shown, it is very difficult to predict today how the information society of tomorrow will look, and that is why we opted for a broad and ambitious strategic framework, instead of a detailed action plan, because this strategic framework allows for review and adjustments in response to emerging challenges. The i-2010 framework thus seeks to provide a future-proof policy framework.

I am very pleased to note that Parliament and the Commission share a position on the key elements of i-2010: commitments to make ICT legislation forward-looking and responsive to the changes brought about by converging. So, it must be technologically neutral and supportive of competition, and at the same time Member States must implement fully the existing regulatory framework which, unfortunately, is not always the case, but you know that I am fighting to get that done.

We see a similar need for the approach to spectrum management which can respond to rapid technological developments and changes in demand and which is supported by regulators, operators and others involved. Here we will have a lot of work in the next few months.

Our shared priorities also include support for the EU’s creation and distribution of European content, the protection of intellectual property, the promotion of security and the protection of users against harmful content. The Commission and Parliament are also of one mind when it comes to urging Member States and businesses to invest more into ICT research, and we see the same need for ensuring appropriate financial resources for ICT in FP7 and CIP.

We also agree on the need to promote and protect citizens’ rights in the information society and that is why we need to raise the awareness of citizens on how their rights, freedom of expression, privacy, personal data protection and right to receive or communicate information can be exercised in the information society.

Together with Parliament I would urge the Member States to use their national reform plans in order to address their own ICT priorities, to improve their public services, such as e-government initiatives, where I see a lot of progress in the move to invest more in the exploitation of ICT in public-sector services.

Like Parliament, I am worried about the digital divide. We have to ensure that everyone can participate; not only people who live in cities; not only people who have a certain level of education; not only young people. This is a very strong goal and an opportunity to be seized. We will work together on steps to bridge this digital divide.

When I refer to ‘digital divide’, I also mean the promotion of digital literacy for all, which leads me to the participation of women in all ICT-related fields of academia and business. There is good news: our statistics show that gender is no longer the main factor in the digital divide; that factor is diminishing very rapidly. I am encouraged by this, but that does not mean that we should not do anything to solve the residual problem. We have to work together and continue our efforts to promote greater gender balance in ICT-related fields such as science. In many governments, initiatives are being taken to that end.

I agree with you on the crucial importance of the Internet for an economy based on information. That is why the EU also played an active role in brokering the agreement on the progressive internationalisation of Internet governance at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis last year. In my view, that is the best approach to Internet governance. The Commission, together with Parliament, will proceed by organising a forum later this year.

I am also stepping up monitoring activities in the field of media pluralism and will shortly publish a working paper on that issue. The working paper is going to be a stock-taking exercise to capture the wide range of different circumstances across the Member States, but at the same time – and I keep reiterating this – my views on ownership and media pluralism have not changed. Ownership issues are a matter for Member States: they must take their responsibilities and exercise them in an effective manner in line with the subsidiarity principle. That is why the Commission simply supports the Member States; it does not dictate to them in this important area of national life.

Having said that, I promised you that I would follow this up and cooperate with you in that regard. I will shortly be proposing measures to that effect to this House.

Concerning your call to speed up the e-inclusion initiative – which is planned for 2008 – I urge you not just to see the date of 2008, because 2008 is the time when we will have reached our objective. In order to reach it, we are preparing things now. So I have spoken with the forthcoming EU Presidencies of Finland, Germany and Portugal, and practical actions will be built up until we reach the e-inclusion initiative in 2008.

Since the publication of the i-2010 action plan, we have significantly raised awareness of ICT issues. We have started to make progress on key objectives, with the adoption of several proposals, with other proposals in the pipeline and with initiatives that were not inscribed in the i-2010 initiative. The flexibility of the action plan allows us to add initiatives whenever necessary. The latest one I took involves consultation on RFIDs, which bring together economic necessity and the necessity to protect the privacy of our citizens.

However, achievement of our ambitious objective requires adequate financial resources. As soon as an interinstitutional agreement on the Financial Perspective is reached, we need to see important decisions and adjustments named in the Seventh Framework Programme and in the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme. I therefore urge you to ensure that those two programmes are granted the basic necessary financial resources in order to support ICT as a driver for competitiveness and growth. I am very glad to see that this is a shared opinion and goal not only in this House but also in the three institutions, and that is a guarantee of success.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Teresa Riera Madurell (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality. (ES) Mr President, I am going to speak on behalf of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, and I would like firstly to congratulate the rapporteur on his wonderful work and then express my agreement with the Commissioner’s view and say that, in order to achieve the Lisbon objectives, it is essential to create a fully inclusive information society, in which everybody has access to the new information and communication technologies and can benefit from them under equal conditions.

In this context, the scant presence of women in the fields relating to these technologies demonstrates that there is a real digital gender gap in the European Union, which has clear repercussions in terms of employment and which must be dealt with by means of specific actions.

We must tackle the causes of this division, and it is therefore necessary to promote training actions aimed at increasing the number of well-trained women in the field and at all levels and to achieve a greater presence of, and participation by, women in all of the bodies that take decisions and formulate policies related to information and communication technologies. There are still very few women in this area.

We are calling for special attention for women living in rural, isolated and geographically remote areas, for whom information and communication technologies may provide an effective means of participating in economic, political and social life.

For all of these reasons, it is essential that we have reliable data, broken down by gender, and a legal framework that deals with the gender perspective and allows us to identify and tackle the causes of discrimination. On this aspect, the role of the new European Institute for Gender Equality may be fundamental.

Our report also refers to the sexist use of pictures of women in the media, and particularly in the digital media, and we are therefore calling on the Commission to promote the drafting of a gender equality code for the media, which will help to promote gender equality in the media, both in terms of the information they convey and in the media organisations themselves.

I do not wish to end without calling on the Commission to pay particular attention to the criminal use of the new information and communication technologies, such as the use of the Internet for the trafficking of women and children. In this regard, we would ask that all legal and technological initiatives necessary to put an end to it be promoted.

 
  
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  Giulietto Chiesa (ALDE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Culture and Education. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this report constitutes a significant advance towards an understanding of the concept of an ‘information society’. Specifically, I would particularly like to point to one aspect of the report: the fact that it gives a precise indication of the extremely close relationship between current impressive developments in technology and the fate of democracy.

The report was right to show the effects that the information society has on growth and employment and to present the benefits, problems and the solutions. The implications, however, go much further: the media have already become key in conditioning the ideas and behaviour of billions of people. Their role is therefore socially important and often decisive. Media ownership cannot be distinct from responsibility towards society, and the effects of the media must not be seen solely in terms of the market.

At stake on this issue are all our values, our rights, and even the fate of peace and the survival of humanity. We face not merely a set of economic and technical problems; what is at stake are fundamental rights such as the right to be informed, to be able to express oneself and to communicate, particularly given that the information society will increasingly be a society of the moving image. This will be the dominant language of the future.

Those unable to decipher the images and prevent themselves from being manipulated by them will not be free: helping our children to learn this language will be the only way to make them into citizens with awareness.

 
  
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  Pilar del Castillo Vera, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (ES) Mr President, I would like firstly to thank the Commissioner for the report drawn up by the Commission. Thanks to that report, I believe that we have been able to hold an extremely interesting debate, because it stresses once again what I believe to be absolutely fundamental in the Lisbon Agenda.

If there is one decisive area in terms of the implementation of the Lisbon Agenda, it is the information and communication technologies, which constitute a priority issue for this House and for the European institutions.

I would like to take this opportunity to refer to the budgetary issues, which have yet to be fully defined. For example, with regard to the Seventh Framework Programme, we must not forget the essential and decisive role of the information and communication technologies in the Lisbon Agenda.

I am going to mention just two aspects of the debate that we have held in my committee, in which we have reached an agreement on this report. Firstly, with regard to Article 66, which was approved in the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy and which refers to the need not to forget deregulation. This is necessary to the sector, which only needed to be regulated for a limited period and in response to the demands of the time.

I believe that it is very important not to forget deregulation, because if we do not take it into account and vote in favour of it today, we will be going against the Lisbon Agenda.

Finally, on the issue of women, all of the groups reached a compromise amendment and we voted in favour of it, but then eight amendments appeared dealing with the issue of women, which Mr Paasilinna is now telling us are being reduced to three.

Women do not need to hear things repeated. Women need decisive action. Where there are problems, they do not need the same thing to be repeated twenty times, but rather they need something serious and decisive to be done once and for all. We are therefore in favour of the compromise amendment, but not in favour of more and more rhetoric, like that contained in these additional amendments.

 
  
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  Catherine Trautmann, on behalf of the PSE Group. (FR) The knowledge-based society cannot be achieved unless we can bridge the digital divide in all its forms. There is a digital divide between rich and poor countries, but it also exists within the EU itself. If we are to combat this problem effectively, we need to tackle all of its various aspects, both technological and socio-economic. Indeed, knowledge of ICT is the best response we can give to this problem. The aim of the i2010 strategy is to develop the effective use of the goods and services provided by ICT and to encourage active and critical participation in the information society for all and to everyone's benefit. This plan of action is therefore particularly to be welcomed.

The intention of our amendments was to ensure that we do not forget about vulnerable people such as the elderly, the disabled, and those who live alone or have social difficulties. I also think it would be worthwhile to undertake an analysis of the economic, cultural and social effects of the move towards an information society, in order to improve our understanding and the monitoring of the plan, because I believe that we cannot be competitive if we do not share knowledge and skills.

 
  
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  Anne Laperrouze, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (FR) Mr President, innovation in the field of ICT is progressing so rapidly that there is a risk that the European Union, which invests only EUR 80 per capita compared with the equivalent of EUR 350 in Japan and EUR 400 in the United States, will soon be left behind. The EU must therefore increase investment in research and urge the Member States to do the same.

On the other hand, the fast pace of innovation means that there is a risk that the digital divide, and therefore social divides, will widen, to the detriment of the social and territorial cohesion that we are working towards. It is therefore vital that we build an information society based on inclusion, and on broad take-up of information and communication technologies in public services, SMEs and households.

The success of the i2010 strategy requires the European Commission to put forward proposals to make these technologies accessible to all citizens, taking account of the crucial role given to the regions, to safeguard the principles of freedom and pluralism of the media, and to set out clear actions to protect against illegal and harmful content and to protect minors and human dignity, while also protecting privacy. The Commission also needs to put the emphasis on effective use of ICT in public services, particularly in health and education.

Finally, although I am in favour, in the medium term, of opening up the market following a period of transition towards the implementation of general competition rules, I would point out that the Treaties define the rules for free competition, and at the same time call for economic, social and territorial cohesion.

Freedom of competition in the field of ICT must not result in the private sector refusing to invest in unprofitable infrastructure. The role of states and regions will therefore be a determining factor in encouraging the development of the necessary infrastructure.

It is up to us to make ICT a real tool for economic development and for social and territorial cohesion in the European Union. I would like to thank Mr Paasilinna for the high quality of his work, and my fellow Members for their contributions to the debate.

 
  
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  Umberto Guidoni, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, information technology is a key element in constructing a society that is culturally richer and more cohesive. The information society ought to be open to all, and ought to be a democratic tool that takes cultural diversity into account and promotes participation by citizens as protagonists, and not just as consumers.

We must tackle the elimination of the digital divide, which is a problem of balanced development and above all social justice. The role of public investment in safeguarding the open nature of ICTs should be considered fundamental, in order to guarantee the development of technical resources and cultural tools permitting all citizens to benefit from an ever-increasing volume of communication and information services. In order to put good governance into practice and provide all Europeans with full citizenship, we should adopt a European Charter of consumer rights in the digital world – so-called e-rights – with shared principles and guidelines, defining a framework of citizens’ rights. The charter should include, in particular, the right to free access, free of charge (which would therefore be non-discriminatory), to transparent, comprehensive and complete information in a secure environment via telecommunications services and platforms based on open, interoperable standards, such as e-mail address portability.

With the I-2010 Directive, Europe has the vital role of meeting the target of making the information society accessible to all.

 
  
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  Mieczysław Edmund Janowski, on behalf of the UEN Group. (PL) Mr President, I should like to welcome two documents, the report before us and the Commission’s communication.

I will refer briefly to a number of issues. In their broadest sense, ICT services, especially the Internet, must be understood to impact on human beings’ consciousness and indeed on their subconscious too. Accordingly, it is essential to put in place technological, distribution and legal safeguards to ensure these facilities are not used to transmit harmful content. I have in mind content likely to deprave, to incite hatred or to promote criminal behaviour. It is also necessary to provide effective protection for financial and administrative services, to prevent unauthorised individuals from accessing them. Particular care should be taken over material aimed at children and young people. The promotion of broadband information networks must be a priority. More widespread use of home electric networks for data transmission should be encouraged. Educating and informing society on the subject is tremendously important. As we identify the tasks to be accomplished in this area we should keep in mind that this is not only a problem for the Union but also for the whole world. Let us therefore do all we can to ensure that access to the information network becomes a reality for all our citizens and that they derive the maximum possible benefit from it.

 
  
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  Nikolaos Vakalis (PPE-DE).(EL) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the technological developments and changes taking place nowadays in the ICT sector are proceeding at a giddy pace and are hard to keep up with. Thus, a digital divide is appearing between Member States, a digital divide is appearing between regions and, most importantly, a digital divide is even appearing between persons with a small age difference. I shall comment on two points which I consider crucial to the achievement of the objectives of i2010. The first point is the institutional framework and the second point is the financing framework.

As regards the first point, with the i2010 strategy which we are debating today, the need is being identified and the review is being planned of the existing institutional framework on the basis of the new situation as regards digital convergence. This constitutes a major challenge, given that the new institutional framework must: a) be flexible, so that it can adapt to rapid technological developments and the needs of the market without restricting innovative ideas, b) protect the development and production of content and safeguard unimpeded access for every citizen to information. Some of these are contradictory parameters; nonetheless, drastic action must be found which will resolve the problems at the bottlenecks and will allow Europe to be competitive and to take the lead.

As regards the second point, the new strategy lays down ambitious objectives. Nonetheless, as regards financing for research and innovation in ICT sectors, even with the 80% increase in resources proposed by the new strategy, Europe is still behind; to be precise, I would say a long way behind its competitors. This fact makes me pessimistic and I consider that it is one of the most basic points on which we need to focus.

Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, objectives without resources to achieve them are not objectives.

 
  
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  Eluned Morgan (PSE). – Mr President, I welcome this report. This was of course is one of the top 10 priorities of the UK Presidency, essential for achieving the Lisbon goals. Now ICT accounts for 40% of Europe’s productivity growth and for 25% of the EU’s GDP growth. One of the key issues for me – as it is for the Commissioner and the rapporteur – is not just the economic goals of Lisbon but that the goals of Lisbon should embrace all. Social inclusion is of course a key factor.

I know of poor single parents in Ely in Cardiff, where I was brought up, who do not have a car. When they want to do their weekly shopping it is impossible for them to take a bus; they have countless bags to carry and young children to take with them, and so they book a taxi at the cost of about GBP 10. Now if they were to shop online they would not have to pay that GBP 10, and this would make a huge difference to many poor families. The demonstration of the practical advantages of ICT is important to ensure that poorer members of our society embrace new technologies.

Finally, we have to be realistic in relation to ICT. The prime investment for the sector has to come from the private sector. The state sector cannot respond quickly enough to changes in technology. Our responsibility is to provide a stable legislative framework for this kind of investment.

 
  
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  Angelika Niebler (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to start with warm thanks to our rapporteur for his good report and also for his constructive cooperation.

Digitalisation is bringing massive change into the media and communications landscape; in future, the distinction between infrastructure and content will become less important, for every kind of content will be accessible on any platform. Every type of content will end up being accessible using every kind of technology, be it the television set, the computer or the mobile phone, and another revolutionary thing is, of course, that all this content is available, to high quality, on all platforms and via all technologies even now. More and more service providers are competing with one another in a market place that includes telecoms companies, cable operators, satellite broadcasters, mobile telephone companies, content providers, ISPs and so on and so on and so on. All of them are devising their own business models, and none of them knows – any more than do we – which of these models will end up prevailing and what, at the end of the day, viewers actually want to access, what they want to see, or the sort of content they would like.

That does of course present us, as European lawmakers, with problems, since we have to draw up the legal framework and must, in so doing predict these imponderables and the way these things will develop, about which there is no certainty. Over the coming weeks and months, we will have a very large number of questions to answer.

I am very grateful to Mr Paasilinna and to all the Members who have contributed to this report for reformulating essential issues in it and summarising them. Let me mention a few of them. How much regulation will still be needed in future in the telecoms field? How much influence should the European Union have on that? How do we want to shape frequency policy? One problem that is extremely vexatious to the public is that of international roaming, for they still incur far too many charges when phoning across borders on mobiles. Over the coming weeks and months, we will be occupying ourselves with these questions. I look forward to an interesting dialogue with you, and I think that the digital world, which presents legislators such as ourselves with so many challenges, will certainly keep us busy over the coming weeks and months.

 
  
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  Reino Paasilinna (PSE), rapporteur. (FI) Mr President, Commissioner, I would like to stress in this minute-long speech how vital it is to obtain relevant information. If members of the public do not receive information that is essential for their lives, development will not be sustainable. Essential information lies at the heart of the information society: it is its most important aspect. This is now being obscured by games and an unrealistic world of entertainment, one in which it is difficult to find and glean essential information that people can use to take control of their lives and participate in democracy. This is therefore an essential matter as far as democracy is concerned. I assume that the Commissioner has pondered this issue and I would like to hear her opinion on the subject of relevant information now, at the same time as she greets this important official.

 
  
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  Viviane Reding, Member of the Commission. (FR) Mr President, allow me to thank the draftsmen of the opinions and all the Members who have been involved in this issue, which is extremely important not only for economic and industrial development, but also for the welfare of our societies.

I would like to start by responding briefly to Mr Paasilinna's question regarding information. There are two levels of information, the first being benchmarking, which takes place on an annual basis. I am aware, Mr Paasilinna, that this benchmarking and these figures could be improved. I too sometimes find it frustrating not to have statistics underlining the importance of the sector and its development. One of the difficulties is that the sector is not stable, but moving fast. We therefore need to review our information virtually every two or three months.

The second level is the information received by consumers. In this respect, it is very important that we take things in hand. For example, I have just launched a survey and consultations regarding RFIDs, because I think we need to develop the RFID economy and industry and also to discuss, with consumer associations and privacy protection bodies, the influence of new technologies on citizens and also, perhaps, the measures that we need to take to protect citizens better. Efforts are thus being made, and I am counting on the European Parliament to be the spokesman for these discussions on citizenship.

Mr President, allow me to respond briefly to some of the questions raised.

Almost all of the speakers have quite justifiably mentioned Internet security. The Internet is a wonderful thing, but, just like any other wonderful thing, it also has a negative side: that includes abuse of the Internet. That is why, in the coming weeks, we are going to present a communication on spam, spyware and malware. This was the subject of a seminar on 'Trust in the Net' held in February under the Austrian Presidency. It is why we are working with child protection and women's protection bodies. There are criminals operating on the Net and we need to put up barriers to stop them. To this end, in terms of research, in 2007 we are going to present the European Security Research Programme covering all the fields – encryption, biometrics, smart cards, authentication, RFIDs, and so on – in which security problems must remain uppermost in our minds.

Another recurrent theme, which was quite rightly brought up by all the speakers, is the digital divide and regional development. If we give competition free rein, it will of course develop in places where there will be a return on the investment, in other words in our towns. Our policies therefore need to enable new technologies to develop outside our towns as well. The Commission will be presenting an initiative in this connection at the end of this month, covering both rural and regional development.

A third theme that was raised by some Members is skills levels and in particular the need for specific measures for women. With respect to skills, we are already aware that, in the technology sector, economic development is currently displaying a deficit of 15% due to a lack of technicians and engineers. It is therefore of prime importance that we reform education in this field. We also have statistics showing a lack of women in the sector. I must admit that those statistics are not as bad as I had initially thought – women are doing better than is generally thought. We should therefore not be too alarmed, but we do need to take action. Therefore, together with the Commissioner responsible for education and the Commissioner responsible for research, we are going to draw up a roadmap to improve the involvement of women both in science training and in research. We are also encouraging women researchers to get more involved in technology research.

In 2007 we are also going to present a European guide to best practice in the field. I fully support the call for funding for ICT research. I must tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that today's technological successes − GSM, for example, which has become a worldwide standard, is based on European research − are based on research from the 1980s. If we want to remain at the cutting edge of global technological progress in future, it is today's research that will provide tomorrow's results. Therefore, if we do not invest in research, we can be sure that, in future, no economic sector will grow in this regard.

Thus, when I ask for enough funding for technological research, I am not doing it for my own pleasure, but to develop the economy, and hence to create jobs for the future, here in Europe, and to prevent businesses relocating outside Europe.

Some of you raised the issue of the regulatory framework. I will be quite clear on that matter: the Telecoms regulation − which is a very positive example that we are considering using as a basis for reforming the market and regulatory framework in the fields of transport and energy − was intended not to regulate but to deregulate, to open up the markets to competition.

Our statistics demonstrate one thing: where markets are open to competition, prices fall and the take-up of technologies among the citizens rises considerably. In contrast, where markets are closed, where there are monopolies, the take-up is non-existent because there is no choice on the market and because prices are too high. Look at the statistics on broadband, for example, and you will see that only competition can make this market work, but − as I said before − competition only in markets that can be competitive. We need correctives in markets that are too expensive for industrial economics; in other words, regional policy must pay attention to the regions remote from urban centres.

That said, the regulatory framework is in the review phase. I have launched the initial discussions, and before the summer I will present to you a review of the markets concerned and an initial draft reforming the telecoms package. Consultations on this subject will start in the second half of the year, and at the end of the year I will present to you a new telecoms package, which will be much simpler than the telecoms package on the table or in force. However − and I would like to make this quite clear − this new package will not allow new monopolies to become established: I am quite resolute on that point.

Some of you also mentioned roaming. As you probably know, last summer I announced that I would not put up with excessive prices for much longer; you will remember that last October I published a price comparison on a website. I am in the process of making a comparison of the price changes since October. Because I was frustrated with those price changes, I announced a regulation to reduce them, and, miracle of miracles, since I announced the regulation, international roaming fees have dropped, which is a good thing.

In a few weeks, I will let you know what I am going to do in that regard and I will tell you whether or not we need to regulate. I think we will need to regulate, and I will therefore submit to you a regulation to ensure that international roaming fees are based on true costs and not on fantasy prices that strain household budgets.

 
  
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  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place at 11.30 a.m.

Written statement (Rule 142)

 
  
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  Edit Herczog (PSE). – (HU) One hundred and twenty years ago, Thomas Edison said: ‘Electrical lighting will be so cheap that only the very rich will use candles for lighting.’ These days only the very rich can afford not to have a mobile telephone number or an e-mail address. In the absence of these, these days it would be very difficult to apply for a job, and it would be hopeless to try to start a business.

The creation of the information society is not just a means, but also an indispensable precondition of growth and employment. We must ensure development in all areas at the same time, in a rapid and flexible manner:

We must build networks even in areas where this would not be profitable purely on the basis of the market. This must be included in our cohesion policy.

We must provide the population with affordable access to networks. The market will undertake to do this, if we do not place unnecessary obstacles in its way.

We must provide high standard, safe content. This involves up-to-date training, innovation, research and development, and undoubtedly a more efficient protection of intellectual rights.

If we had waited for too long to switch on electricity, the candle wax would have burnt our fingers. If we delay the issues relating to the information society much longer, the globalised ICT economy will be only too pleased to overtake us. We must take action urgently.

 
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