Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat this afternoon stressed the importance of Europe taking the lead and harnessing disruptive innovations around it, including bitcoin and blockchain.
“We should harness the disruptive changes that are around us and seek to regulate them in a proactive manner,” said Muscat, adding that Europe needed to be as “ambitious as possible” in this regard.
Muscat was delivering a keynote address at the EU’s annual Digital Assembly which is held each year in the country holding the EU presidency. The assembly offers stakeholders to exchange ideas, take stock, and look ahead at developments in the digital world.
“I do believe the world is looking for leadership right now, in so many areas, and this is the time for Europe to assert itself as a leader in the digital economy,” said Muscat.
The Prime Minister said he was happy to be addressing the assembly on the “first roaming charge free day”, which he described as a great accomplishment.
He recalled how in 2006, as an MEP, he was put in charge of the Internal Market Committee report on the “first slashing of roaming charges”.
“We have come a long way since then and I find a little bit of poetic justice in the fact that something I started off together with so many colleagues and friends in parliament and the commission more than ten years ago has arrived at the finish line during our country’s presidency,” he said.
Muscat stressed the importance of the digital economy to continued economic development and the creation of new opportunities and quality jobs, adding that through digitalisation, “some things that were unimaginable a decade or so ago” were now possible.
“Two of our biggest industries, the Financial Services sector and the gaming sector, would not have been possible without adequate communication infrastructure,” he explained.
As a small island, he said, Malta was uniquely sensitive to the benefits that connectivity and digitalisation can bring about and insisted that it was of “paramount importance” that Europe strives to complete the digital single market, but to also ensure that is fit for purpose, now and in the future.
Moreover, he stressed the importance of legislators keeping up with the pace of technological change.
“This applies to us as the European Union, and also to Malta,” said Muscat. “We are proud to be at the forefront in putting forward ideas on the digital economy.”
In order to do so, Muscat said he had appointed a parliamentary secretary who would be focusing on the digital economy.
“I purposely took the portfolio of the digital economy under my oversight and appointed a junior minister in order to be solely focused on it because I believe that what we achieved over the past decade or so is just the tip of the iceberg of so many other opportunities we can achieve as a country,” he added.
Turning to the Maltese Presidency’s achievements, Muscat said that it had prioritised changes that needed to be implemented, “from portability of rights to WiFi4EU files to geoblocking, to wholesale roaming”.
In addition to this, Muscat said that work also been done on ensure a 5G roll-out in the European Union by 2020, something which he said had already started to be tested in Malta.
He concluded by emphasising the importance of the EU working together to achieve even more results.
“If such a small member state can overachieve thanks to the right infrastructure and the right investment, how much more can we achieve if we work together in this area as a European Union.”