Madrid, 25 - 27 May 2010
Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
I believe that today’s topic very clearly reflects the phase of the relations between the European Union and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Our partnership has grown stronger over the years and cooperation has expanded to cover a wide range of areas, including political and security, economical and trade, and development cooperation affairs. ASEAN has become a strategic trade partner for the EU. Therefore we consider it essential to upgrade our economic relations by concluding deep and comprehensive free trade agreements first on the bilateral level, and in the future with the entire ASEAN region.
Today I would like to focus on how to further expand our dialogue, particularly by using modern information and communication technology tools. I believe the new ways of connecting brighten our future course, showing us the way forward. New technology holds huge potential for all of us and it is especially relevant now, when we are struggling our way out of an economic downturn.
Firstly, the better utilisation of new technology will improve our economic outlook, allowing us to create new jobs and strengthen our competitiveness. Secondly, by using new and innovative solutions, we are able to make government services more easily accessible to our public, thus creating a more open and cost-efficient e-services system. Thirdly, it helps us to connect with each other, enabling us to be online at any given moment. The latter is particularly vital for regional contacts.
Modern tools of communication, especially the Internet, have opened many windows for each and every one of us. Today we even cannot imagine the world without the letter “e” in front of the word “mail” – the same “E” as in “Estonia”.
For Estonia, the Internet has been a crucial engine of development and modernisation. We have made extensive investments in new technology over the past ten years that have allowed us to take a leap from being underdeveloped to possessing the cutting edge technology that characterises our society today. Modern solutions have become an essential component of our everyday life, an e-lifestyle as we call it. Estonia’s innovation includes paperless cabinet meetings, a connected e-government, digital ID cards, voting over the Internet and the free Internet-phone Skype, among others. Recently we have turned our attention to cyber security and cyber defence.
By installing and using different new technology solutions we have learned a lot. For example, that guaranteed (broadband) Internet access is not enough. We also have to make sure that national legislation is in place, while at the same time avoiding over-regulation.
The lessons learned have encouraged us to share our experience with others. We have implemented numerous projects aimed at enhancing the capacity for e-governance in different countries and promoting the sharing of our transition experience. We have shared our best practices with our neighbours, both close and more distant, and we are ready to continue on that path.
We have also learned that, while improving access to government services and simplifying administrative procedures through smart IT solutions, we must very carefully consider the security implications. We have to build a system that is strong enough to withstand potential cyber attacks.
I believe everyone agrees that cyber threats do not recognize any borders, nor is any traditional security measure applicable in fighting the crimes of the virtual world. By no means are they somebody’s fantasy or a chapter in a fictional story. In Estonia we have experienced that these threats are very real and very striking. A cyber attack could paralyze government and private sector services in the blink of an eye, and may be regarded as intervention against a democratic system, creating social unrest. No conventional weapon has similar power.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
There are many countries in the world with huge IT potential, but lacking the proper legal framework to address cyber crime. Our aim is to raise the awareness of both governments and the private sector in respect to this most complex issue. First and foremost it is essential to curb cyber crime, as by doing so the threat of cyber attacks will diminish significantly.
Estonia has adopted a national cyber strategy, but the key to any adequate strategy implementation rests in international cooperation. After all, we are dealing with a cross-border issue, and that makes international cooperation in this field all the more important.
Therefore, first of all it is essential to be aware of this ever-growing risk and to realise that we all are vulnerable. Secondly, we have to build a strong and global alliance, in order to successfully fight this complex threat.
In enhancing our cooperation in this field, we have to build upon the existing laws and regulations. The Council of Europe’s Convention on Cyber Crime serves today as the only international treaty in this field, and a main international reference standard. Therefore we must use every opportunity to promote the Convention and support the excellent Project on Cyber Crime, aimed at implementing the Convention not only in Europe, but worldwide.
I am pleased to note that the Convention on Cyber Crime is becoming a truly global instrument. The fact that countries in the ASEAN region have started domestic preparations for bringing their legislation into accordance with the treaty only confirms my belief. The Philippines, for example, has already initiated the signing process, and the first national law on cyber crime is underway in Indonesia. These are important developments that create awareness and build our capacity to efficiently combat this complex crime.
I would also like to use this opportunity to once more urge all states that have not yet done so to join or ratify the Convention on Cyber Crime. This will enable us to create a common understanding and to ensure a more stable cyber world, where the manoeuvres of malicious criminals will be noticed, reacted to, and prosecuted according to the universally acknowledged provisions of law.
Finally I would like to mention that while strengthening our capability to fight cyber crime, we have to avoid limiting the economic development of countries and the spread of new technologies. Nor can we put aside the aspect of human rights – namely, the free exchange of ideas and freedom of expression. In short, there is no security without privacy.
I believe we have to focus on both new and conventional threats with the same attention, build global alliances through common understanding, and secure the fundamental rights and freedoms of everyone. If we keep the basics in mind, it is impossible to lose the track on our course towards a peaceful and prosperous future.