Liikanen calls for better EU-Latin American understanding on information society
EU Commissioner for Enterprise and the Information Society, Erkki Liikanen, has called for an intensified EU-Latin American dialogue to overcome differences on key issues due to be discussed at the forthcoming UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). Mr Liikanen believes that the WSIS should concentrate on mobilising information and communication technologies (ICT) with the aim of meeting development goals and reducing the digital divide, but also that the global issues of trust and confidence in ICT, such as network security and data protection, should be addressed. On these and other issues, however, EU and Latin-American leaders do not always see eye to eye. Speaking to a forum of EU and Latin American business leaders in Brasilia on 30 October, Mr Liikanen observed: 'From the European Commission side, we have been somewhat puzzled to see that in spite of the cooperation developed over the last years, our positions in the WSIS process have been rather divergent on a number of key issues [...] I would like us to find a way to explore how we can bring our positions closer. So I would suggest an in depth EU-Latin America dialogue on the Summit during the next preparatory meeting, to be held in Geneva in November.' In spite of 'difficult times' in the broader relationship between the EU and the Latin American trade bloc, Mercosur, following the failure of recent World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks, the Commissioner claimed that cooperation on information society issues has highlighted the potential for a fruitful EU-Latin American partnership. Under the @LIS programme (Alliance for the Information Society), the telecom regulatory and standards authorities from Latin America and the EU have held several discussions. A policy dialogue between both regions on e-strategies for the development of the information society will be launched at the beginning of 2004. Mr Liikanen also highlighted 19 projects involving Latin American and EU partners that are being financed under the @LIS Programme, aimed at demonstrating the benefits of Information and Communication Technologies in four priority fields: local e-governance; e-learning and cultural diversity, e-public health; and e-inclusion. The creation of a Latin American broadband research networking infrastructure and its interconnection to the GEANT network in Europe has been supported with 12.5 million euro of European Commission funding. Indeed since the beginning of this year, the information society technologies section of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) has been able to finance organisations from a number of third countries, including some from the Latin American region.