European Competitive Telecommunications Association

EP 16 October 2019

16 October 2019, ecta, represented by its Director General, participates to a debate at the European Parliament: Sustaining an open global digital ecosystem: A European Perspective

Co-hosted by the following Members of the European Parliament (MEPs): MEP Maria Grapini (S&D), MEP Franc Bogovič (EPP), MEP Bill Newton Dunn (RENEW) and MEP Jan Zahradil (ECR).

Keynote speech by Luc Hindryckx, Director General ecta


Thank you MEP Dun,

Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

Ladies and gentlemen,


Thank you for inviting me here this evening to speak on this panel on “International digital cooperation: building on each continent’s strengths for the development of a European digital sovereignty.”

When preparing for my intervention, the first thoughts I had were to narrow what is exactly meant by “European digital sovereignty” as this concept is multi-dimensional and is quite broad for a 5 minutes keynote.

Hence, I had to make some choices and will limit my intervention to 4 messages.

I started to google the words “digital sovereignty”. Now, you will probably think that to illustrate “European Sovereignty” this is not the best example, I would not disagree. So, instead of Google. I turned to Bing.  I see some smiles in the room, and, indeed, it did not make a huge difference. Well, I can tell you I also used DuckDuckgo to address privacy concerns, although, DuckDuckgo, too, is vested in the US and some of you might continue to argue. My solution? I eventually used Qwant.  

What does this tell us?  As a citizen, I can make some choices to exercise my sovereignty.

On the individual level, digital sovereignty has to do with individuals owning their data and controlling its use. Taking care of your data means treating them with sovereignty.

This was my first message.

In the EU we are united by the values of the Enlightenment and humanism. These values include a commitment to the dignity of human beings, freedom, equality and solidarity. These values underpin our laws.

The European Cybersecurity Act, the Network and Information Security Directive, the ePrivacy Directive and the General Data Protection Regulation are solid assets of European Digital Sovereignty. They provide us with a European Regulatory Framework that is suited to improve the security of personal data. and extend that data sovereignty principle around the world, notably where it requires foreign dealers in European data to comply with this framework.

Hence, the power of the European Market, given it size, should not be underestimated and our values should be at the core of European international collaboration. Free trade is part of it however, respect of the rule of law (including Intellectual property, data and privacy) based on clear evidence as well as a fair competition (level playing field) should guide our trade agreements. Building walls for a European fortress is probably not the solution. But this does not prevent us from thinking about how to make values and commerce intersect.

This was my second message.

As I just illustrated, it is important to have choice and therefore it is important to maintain a sufficient level of competition at all levels of the value, or supply, chain ­– even more when the supply chain has globalised.

The EU veto on the merger Siemens-Alstom earlier this year has fuelled the long-running debate over whether the EU antitrust rules need to be updated and we often hear that Europe needs European champions. Telecom champions, Digital champions, etc.

At ecta we do not agree with that, we strongly believe in the societal benefits of competition. When commenting on the Siemens-Alstom case, Ms Vestager said “Without sufficient remedies, this merger would have resulted in higher prices for the signalling systems that keep passengers safe and for the next generations of very high-speed trains”.

Indeed. And I would stress that competition not only has provided lower prices, improved quality and efficiency, but it has also been the fundamental driver of innovation – the driver that forces market players to continue to improve. And don't we all want to see our children pulled upwards in the class room?

This was my third message.

Also, let’s not forget that most of the biggest tech companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, Apple or Google, just to mention some, have grown from start-ups. Entrepreneurs that had an idea, a vision and took the risk to put their money on it. Also, let’s not forget that for any one  success, there are probably hundreds of failures that no one speaks about.  

So, we better act to stimulate a real risk-based European entrepreneurial culture where failure is not a stigma and where venture capital and global complementary assets are easily accessible to European ICT businesses and start-ups.

Entrepreneurs, those that take risk with their money, those are the champions we should promote, and indeed we need many more of those -  we need to stimulate the appetite of our youth for entrepreneurship.

This was my last message.

Thank you

Whatch the video here.

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