Commissioner Reynders: RAID 2021 tackles “the most pressing questions on the EU’s mind”

European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders delivered the keynote address for RAID 2021 on 12 October

Ladies and gentlemen, I begin by thanking our hosts, notably Prime Minister Jean Pierre Raffarin for the invitation.

It is a pleasure to open today’s discussions where you will address key questions raised by the digital transitions.

As it was true when John F Kennedy told the Democratic national conference in 1960, today we also find ourselves at the new frontier. And just as he understood America’s new frontier was a set of challenges, so too is ours.

For example, the successful digital transition is a major European priority. At the same time, the transition carries a number of challenges. A key challenge for the European Union is ensuring that new digital technologies respect all democratic values and fundamental rights.

Europe aims at being at the forefront of a data driven society. We are also deeply committed to international data flows. In this context, our challenge is to ensure that when personal data collected in Europe travels overseas, the protection of this data travels with it.

Another example is product safety rules. When Europe adopted the current legislation in this field, only nine percent of Europeans were shopping online; last year, this figure was 72 percent. Our challenge here is to keep consumers protected in a digital age.

As Kennedy said, the old ways will not do. As the agenda of today’s conference makes clear, there are many important questions around what the new ways should be.

These are definitively some of the most pressing questions on the EU’s mind right now. For example, you ask how the double pandemic has accelerated the demand for technology and appropriate regulation.

When Europe was searching for a safe solution to protect free movement, the digital solution – the European digital Covid certificate with a common European gateway – was clearly the best option. This required new EU-wide legislation, as well as financial support for member states to fund PCR and antibody tests so as not to discriminate against people who would not get the vaccine.

Another question is what regulatory frameworks should be put in place to manage the development of artificial intelligence for the benefit of industry and society. The EU’s objective is the protection of fundamental rights and safety where AI is used. This is the backbone of the legislative proposal we made in April this year. Our proposal follows a risk-based approach. We identified high risks in areas such as education, employment, access to credit or public assistance benefits, law enforcement, migration and asylum justice and biometric systems like facial recognition applications. For these high-risk applications we want requirements to ensure appropriate documentation and testing as well as adequate human oversight and reliability and accuracy of the systems.

One of the most pressing questions you will be asking today relates to international standards in data governance and how can different regulators learn from each other’s approaches. We are facing similar global challenges and I am glad to see an increasing number of countries are converging towards putting in place modern data protection regimes. This is a truly global trend from Brazil to Japan, California to Korea and from Kenya to India. As the G20 ministers underlined in the Trieste declaration, in a world that is often fragmented, this increasing convergence offers new opportunities to foster interoperability, harness the digital economy and better protect citizens’ data.

Before the summer, the EU adopted so-called modernised Standard Contractual Clauses, this is the number one mechanism used by European companies when exporting data outside the EU. As several other jurisdictions around the world are adopting similar model clauses, this is another area where we see great potential for facilitating data flows. Again the questions on today’s agenda are the right questions we need to be asking ourselves as we cross this new frontier.

So I look forward to hearing how you answer them today and I wish you all a successful conference.

This transcript of Commissioner Reynders’ opening keynote address for RAID 2021 is published with permission of the European Commission