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Brussels' new digital strategy comes 'way too late', MEP warns

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Brussels' new digital strategy comes 'way too late', MEP warns
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Plans for a European digital strategy are "too late", an MEP has told Euronews, a day after Brussels announced its objectives in this area for the next ten years.

Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager laid out the EU's aims for the decade in Brussels on Tuesday, telling reporters that she wants the bloc to become "digitally sovereign" by 2030.

But Bulgarian MEP, Eva Maydell, said that these new plans should have been set out already.

"It's way too late to be talking about a digital deal, but it's about time we set clear goals and we try to get there as early as possible," Maydell told Euronews.

Digital inequalities

She also said that the issue of digital minorities — people who lack access or the means to the online world — must be addressed.

"I am really worried that, indeed, we already have digital minorities, and we could see an increasing amount of these digital minorities and this we have to prevent by any means. I think if the pandemic showed us one thing and it definitely opened our eyes to a number of matters which we need to be addressing, one of them is actually enhancing our connectivity. If we don't do it now, if we don't heavily invest in those plans which we used to commit to years ago and did not realise, I'm afraid a couple of years down the line it will be a little bit too late," the Bulgarian MEP explained.

"So, it is kind of a wake-up call for Europe and not only to make sure that topics we talked about 15 years ago - addressing the digital divide - we actually get to the point where we bridge that gap. It's about time in order to make sure that there are no [digitally] underprivileged regions or areas simply because you've decided to raise your family there or start your business in a certain area," she added.

Brussels' plan for data and 5G

The Commission plans for at least 80% of adults to have basic digital skills by 2030, as well as making sure everyone has access to high-speed internet at home or on their mobile devices.

The strategy also wants European citizens' data to be housed on the continent, rather than abroad, through 10,000 climate-neutral storage facilities, something that would contribute significantly towards Brussels' idea of "digital sovereignty".

But it's not the first digital strategy that the EU has unveiled.

There have been similar initiatives in past, which haven't always been successful because of a lack of engagement with citizens, according to Maydell.

But Jacob Kirkegaard, a Senior Fellow at the German Marshall Fund, does agree with the Commission's objective for all populated areas to be covered by 5G by 2030.

"There is a more basic infrastructure investment need, which really concerns the need for Europe to invest a lot, and I mean truly a lot more in its 5G high-speed internet capacity...because otherwise this sort of digital divide or the uneven access to 5G is basically going to promote, also ultimately, a large amount of income inequality across and within European countries," Kirkegaard told Euronews.