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Harmonizing Digital Markets - HDM Initiative

INFOPARK Association Strategic Flagship Initiative

Harmonization of the Digital Markets in the Eastern Partnership

 “HDM Initiative”

Historical background

The EU strategy for the creation of the Digital Single Market (DSM) will require greater harmonisation across policy and national marketplaces to eliminate existing obstacles and barriers to the provision of pan-European e-Business services and digital trade.

Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries are getting actively involved in the development of the pan-European digital market space and are playing an important role in formation of the united EuroAsian digital market.  One of the main EaP programme platform is dedicated to economic integration and convergence of Eastern European countries with EU policies.

In respect of all the above INFOPARK together with Lithuanian ICT Association INFOBALT proposed in November 2013 the following area of project activities - “Harmonizing Digital Markets of the EU and Eastern Partnership Neighbors” - as the new strategic initiative for the next period of EaP programme development in 2014-2020.

This project area sounds for harmonization and convergence of EU-EaP digital markets by means of multilateral projects to be implemented by partners from the countries involved.  In May 2014 INFOPARK delegation presented HDM initiative at 11th meeting of EaP programme 2nd platform and found strong support from fellow partner countries, EU Member States representatives and European Commission Directorates – DG Connect and DG DEVCO.

In the course of 2014-2015 INFOPARK initiated a series of inter-regional projects and invited the interested parties from the EU and EaP countries to join HDM initiative activities. We took an active part in organisation of three thematic HDM Workshops held by the European Commission in Brussels and provided support for the preparations of the HDM Study project in the Eastern Partner countries.

HDM Initiative Progress in 2015-2017

January 2015 - HDM Working Group has been formed and led by INFOPARK (Belarus) with the national HDM coordinators acting in all Eastern Partner countries.

May 2015 - HDM Study project has been implemented with the gap analysis and HDM road maps developed for all EaP countries.

HDM feasibility study report

May 2015 - In the Declaration of the EaP Summit in Riga, the participants (including Heads of State or Government and the representatives of the Republic of Armenia, the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, the representatives of the European Union and the Heads of State or Government and representatives of its Member States, as well as the President of the European Parliament and representatives of the Committee of the Regions, the European Economic and Social Committee, the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Conference of Regional and Local Authorities of the Eastern Partnership and the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly) recognised the digital economy as "an area with yet untapped potential for both the EU and partners". They looked forward to "holding the first EaP Ministerial meeting on the digital economy" and "the planned establishment of a Panel on Harmonising Digital Markets (HDM)”, “building on an initiative of Belarus with support from several EU Member States”.

June 2015 - In the Declaration of the first EaP Ministerial meeting on the digital economy, held in Luxembourg on 11 June 2015, the participants agreed to share best practices and deepen their cooperation on these topics. The participants have affirmed the importance of a comprehensive list of topics for the digital economy in the EaP.

1stEaP Ministerial Declaration on the Digital Economy 

As for implementation mechanisms, the participants have also called for the creation of an EaP Panel on Harmonising Digital Markets (HDM Panel) and for further work by the IFIs in promoting the digital economy in the EaP.

«The HDM Panel should aim at discussing opportunities, including funding possibilities, synergies with ongoing projects and programmes, and challenges regarding HDM, formulating HDM strategy, coordinating all actions and projects related to the HDM initiative, assessing progress and ensuring consistency and coherence at national, bilateral and regional level. It should be an integral part of EaP Platform 2 on "Economic Integration and Convergence with EU Policies". The HDM Panel should bring together all relevant stakeholders from EU Member States and partner countries, including public administrations, professional and industrial associations, regulatory bodies, civil society and financial institutions. In the context of the next programming cycle for the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI), the HDM Panel should explore the best approach to secure the recognition of the importance of the HDM initiative, including with regard to the creation of any future EaP Flagships».

The participants have also welcomed the contribution made so far by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), for the development of EaP's Digital Economy. The participants agree that further work should be pursued related to the approximation and harmonisation of relevant regulation and legislation. Implementation of reforms in these areas can help improve the investment climate in the partner countries, boost efficiency, enhance productivity and extend the positive impacts of the Digital Economy across the economy and society as a whole.

November 2015 - 1st HDM Panel was held in Brussels with the Action Plan developed and approved for 2016-17.

HDM Action Plan for 2016-17 

January-May 2016 The portfolio of HDM project actions had been under active development and the first 24 proposals were been considered at HDM Coordination event in Brussels.

HDM initiative presentation 

October 2016 2nd HDM Panel has taken place on 17 October 2016 where HDM thematic networks and their work plans have been discussed.

October 2016 – In the Joint Statement of the Ministerial level meeting on the Digital Community with the EaP partner countries, held in Brussels on 18 October 2016, the participants affirmed their vision of a Digital Community where the benefits of the DSM could be extended to the EaP partner countries and possibly to other EU neighbours. They welcomed the establishment of the HDM Panel in October 2015 and the completion of the first HDM study. The participants agreed to focus their digital cooperation on six priority topics:

  • Telecom rules and infrastructure;
  • Trust and security in the digital economy;
  • eTrade including eCommerce, eCustoms and eLogistics/Digital Transport Corridors;
  • Digital skills;
  • ICT innovation & startup ecosystems;
  • eHealth.

They called for the establishment of thematic EaP networks on these topics that would develop harmonisation roadmaps for 2020, including milestones for the 2017 EaP Summit.

In this occasion, the European Commission announced EU4Digital as the vehicle to support roadmaps' implementation.

The participants supported the creation of EU4Digital Networks of correspondents from the partner countries and the EU Member States on jointly agreed priority topics. The networks serve as platforms for sharing best practices and experiences among partners and with the EU, promoting synergies and developing joint projects.

The network EU4Digital : Trust & Security will focus on electronic identification, digital trust services, network and information security and cybersecurity, all necessary building blocks for interoperable cross border eGovernment services; Moldova and Estonia have accepted to coordinate this work.

The network EU4Digital : eSkills will promote national digital skills strategies in the partner countries, notably by establishing national coalitions for digital jobs, taking into account the EU's "digital skills and jobs coalition"; Armenia and Latvia have accepted to coordinate this work.

The network EU4Digital : ICT Innovation will promote ICT research & innovation ecosystems in the partner countries, taking into account similar efforts in the EU under "Horizon 2020" and the "Start-up Europe" initiative. The work of this network is expected to improve sharing of research excellence and cross border investments, while offering partners' start-ups easier access to EU markets and vice versa; Azerbaijan will coordinate work on ICT research & innovation.

The network EU4Digital : eTrade will promote interoperable electronic trade services and processes among the partners and with the EU, comprising eCommerce, eCustoms and eLogistics; Belarus, Lithuania and Azerbaijan have agreed to coordinate this work.

The participants supported the organisation of an ad hoc regional workshop on eHealth, aiming to identify common challenges for the partner countries and issue regional harmonisation recommendations for the Eastern Partnership; Georgia will coordinate the work on eHealth.

Discussing the implementation mechanism, the participants “underlined their strong commitment to deepen and intensify their digital collaboration, under a flexible governance model, and based as much as possible on existing structures and processes. In particular, the participants agreed that thematic coordination should be effected by the five regional networks. Overall progress of the digital cooperation, as well as future plans should be discussed and assessed by the HDM Panel under the corresponding EaP Platform. Political steering should be done via EaP ministerial meetings. Ministerial level meetings with the European Commission, the partner countries and the Presidency of the Council of the EU could prepare the grounds to EaP Ministerial meetings when deemed necessary.

As a next step, the participants proposed that each of the EU4Digital Networks develop a roadmap for the period 2017-2019 in their respective thematic area, focusing on concrete and achievable deliverables, which aim at improving the life of citizens and the competitiveness of businesses. Each roadmap should include annual milestones. The proposed roadmaps, as well as preliminary achievements, corresponding to the first milestone, should be presented in the 2nd EaP Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy in 2017.

June 2017 – The Joint Staff Working Document "Eastern Partnership: 20 EaP deliverables by 2020" was presented and welcomed at the Eastern Partnership (28+6) MFAs meeting, that has set the objectives and deliverables on the Panel “Harmonisation of digital markets” within the Platform “Economic development and market opportunities” to act as a work plan guiding the actions in the next phase of the EaP until 2020.

According to the document, “the harmonisation of digital markets (HDM) will be fostered in the framework of the EU4Digital initiative, to help eliminate existing obstacles and barriers for pan-European online services for citizens, public administrations and businesses, bearing in mind the upcoming reforms within the EU digital markets”. “This will result in improved online services at better prices and with greater choice; it will attract investments and boost trade and employment. Existing companies will grow faster and start-ups will be created more easily, which will contribute to prevent brain drain. Data flows and personal data protection will require specific attention”.

The suggested implementation mechanisms included:

  • EU4Digital;
  • Alignment of funding approach with IFIs;
  • HDM Panel;
  • Relevant EU Member States' programmes

The main actors to be involved are:

  • Partner Countries' relevant Ministries and regulatory bodies;
  • European Commission;
  • EU Member States;
  • IFIs;
  • expert working groups (networks).

September 2017 - During the 3rd Panel on the Harmonisation of Digital Markets in the Eastern Partnership (HDM Panel) on 19-20 September 2017, the progress of the expert working groups has been discussed.

October 2017 – On 5 October 2017 in Tallinn, the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union – in close cooperation with the European Commission – organised and hosted the Second Eastern Partnership ministerial meeting on the digital economy. The EU ministers and representatives responsible for digital economy met their Armenian, Azerbaijani, Belarusian, Georgian, Moldovan and Ukrainian counterparts to discuss the Eastern Partnership’s progress and achievements in the digital economy since their first meeting in June 2015; as well as future opportunities and challenges for the further development of a strong digital economy in the Eastern Partnership. The Commission and the ministers responsible for digital economy stressed the importance of the digital economy as a core element of the Eastern Partnership policy, and underlined the need to strive for the harmonisation of digital markets (HDM) among EaP partners and with the EU.

The participants also adopted a Ministerial declaration, where they agreed on specific targets for 2020 as part of a roadmap for future digital cooperation in the EaP, ensuring concrete benefits for citizens and businesses this way.

Electronic communications rules and infrastructure

Efforts in this area should aim to achieve by 2020:

  • independent NRA for electronic communications in place in at least five EaP partner countries;
  • roll-out of national broadband strategies by all EaP partners, in line with similar EU strategies;
  • coordinated national spectrum strategies among the EaP partners and with the EU;
  • harmonised roaming pricing and reduced roaming tariffs among the EaP partners - roaming discussions with the EU1 launched.

Trust and security in the digital economy

Efforts in this area should aim to achieve by 2020:

  • pilots in place, for interoperable crossborder eSignature and regional framework for cross-border eServices for businesses, where appropriate, among EaP partners and with the EU;
  • in all EaP partner countries, well developed and implemented national cybersecurity strategies, fully operational national CSIRTs/CERTs in place with established cooperation links to CSIRTs/CERTs of EU Member States, and enhanced public-private and international cooperation in this area.

eTrade including eCommerce, eCustoms and eLogistics/Digital Transport Corridors

Efforts in this area should aim to achieve by 2020:

  • harmonised legislation for eCommerce, eCustoms and eLogistics/Digital Transport Corridors among EaP partners and with the EU, implemented where applicable;
  • import-export processes re-engineered for eTrade, in all EaP partner countries;
  • pilots in place for cross-border eTrade among EaP partners and with the EU;
  • pilot in place for a Digital Transport Corridor between the Baltic and the Black Sea, to be extended for all EaP partner countries.

Digital skills

Efforts in this area should aim to achieve by 2020:

  • national digital skills strategies formulated and implemented by all EaP partners, in line with similar EU strategies;
  • national coalitions for digital jobs established by all EaP partners, based on the EU's digital skills & jobs coalition.

ICT innovation & startup ecosystems

Efforts in this area should aim to achieve by 2020:

  • well-structured ICT research, innovation & startup ecosystems in place for all EaP partners;
  • established connections among EaP partners' ecosystems and with similar EU ecosystems;
  • for all EaP partners, national research and education data networks (NRENs) integrated with the pan-European data network GÉANT, eduroam deployed and integration towards GÉANT services stimulated.


Efforts in this area should aim to achieve by 2020:

  • harmonised legislation for eHealth among the EaP partners and with the EU;
  • pilot in place for cross-border eHealth services among EaP partners and with the EU, taking into account the specifications under the eHealth Digital Service Infrastructure (eHDSI).

By the Declaration, the participants welcomed the preparatory work done for the first EU-funded regional Action under the EU4Digital brand, in the field of the digital economy and society, covering all the EaP partner countries (EaP region) and expected to be adopted by the November 2017 EaP Summit. The Action will contribute to eliminate existing obstacles and barriers for pan-European online services for citizens, public administrations and businesses, including through the harmonisation of the digital environments among the EaP partner countries and with the EU. The participants also stressed the necessity to complement and build on this first Action in the coming years, through additional European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) regional funds, as well as through the ENI bilateral envelopes (for each EaP partner) and possibly, the use of ENI blending instruments (with IFI contribution). The participants invited the HDM Panel to continuously review the progress of the digital cooperation, as well as future plans in this area and report as necessary to the corresponding EaP Multilateral Platform.

The participants proposed this Ministerial Declaration as a contribution to the EaP Summit to take place on 24 November 2017.

On 24 November 2017, an Eastern Partnership summit took place in Brussels, where the EEC and EaP leaders agreed on a Joint declaration reconfirming their commitment and the high importance they attach to the Eastern Partnership.

The Declaration states that:

“The Harmonisation of Digital Markets among the partner countries and with the EU will be fostered in the framework of the EU4Digital initiative, to eliminate existing obstacles and barriers of pan-European online services for citizens, public administrations and businesses. In this context, cooperation will focus on supporting the partner countries in strengthening the independence of national telecom regulators, harmonising spectrum allocation and roaming pricing, implementing national strategies for broadband development, cybersecurity, digital innovation, interoperable eHealth services and digital skills and piloting cross-border eSignatures, electronic trade and Digital Transport Corridors.”

Action Plan until the end of 2017

25 October 2017 – Workshop of EU4Digital: Telecom (EaPeReg) 10th Plenary Meeting;

2-3 November 2017 – Workshop of EU4Digital: Trust&Security network;

24 November 2017 – EaP Summit;

6-7 December 2017 – Workshop of EU4Digital: ICT Innovation network;

6-7 December 2017 – Workshop of EU4Digital: Digital Skills network.

Infopark developing regional HDM cooperation

INFOPARK has been actively developing the regional HDM cooperation with Central-Eastern European ICT Associations as well as selecting the topical market segments for HDM projects portfolio. Such cooperation is based on bilateral Memorandums of Understanding and Agreements signed in 2014-2016 with the following partners:

Armenia – UITE national association;

Azerbaijan – Academy of Research & Innovative Technologies;

Moldova – ATIC national association;

Ukraine – IT-Ukraine national association;

Lithuania – INFOBALT national association;

Latvia – LIKTA national association;

Estonia – eGovernment Academy

Bulgaria – BITE national association;

Romania – ANIS national association

INFOPARK is continuously developing cross-border cluster relations to facilitate the HDM progress and is committed to invite the leading industrial EU and EaP Associations and professional organizations in the implementation of HDM initiative as well as to provide the coordination of HDM project activities.