SEEsummary #33 | November – December 2019

Issue no. 33 of the SEEsummary, published on 23 December 2019, by SEEDIG, in collaboration with DiploFoundation and the Geneva Internet Platform. This issue covers Internet governance and digital policy developments that occurred in South Eastern Europe and the neighbouring area (SEE+) in November and December 2019. Also included: an overview of national and youth IGF meetings held throughout the region, a list of upcoming events (January 2020), and an overview of upcoming capacity development and other opportunities for SEE+ stakeholders. Contributors to this issue: Chivintar Amenty, Marina Bzovîi, Maja Ćalović, Katarine Gevorgyan, Derya Güçdemir, Aleksandra Ivanković, Ana Jovanović, Stelios Kavvadias, Olga Kyryliuk, Marko Paloski, Liljana Pecova Ilieska, Neli Odishvili, Vasile Popa, Oliana Sula, Veronica Ștefan, Sorina Teleanu, Mariam Tsiklauri. Coordination: Maja Ćalović and Olga Kyryliuk. Web design: Charalampos Kyritsis

Telecommunications infrastructure

The Bulgarian Communications Regulation Commission (CRC) has convened the first-ever forum of all stakeholders engaged in the process of 5G implementation, which is supposed to be a result of a public policy and a coordinated approach among all parties concerned. Bulgarian telecom regulator plans to launch a frequency resource allocation procedure by mid-2020. The frequencies will be granted in the 700 MHz and 3 600 MHz bands. Prices have not been announced yet, but both the regulator and the Ministry of Transport have proposed the government to approve a 30% to 50% reduction in frequencies fees as of the next year. The telecom operators present at the forum underlined the need to release additional spectrum, a new tariff for license fees, and an update of existing constructing regulations among the main issue to be tackled in order to facilitate the introduction of 5G technologies. At the same time, they expressed satisfaction with the ongoing dialogue between the business, the government and the regulator. 5G is expected to increase the range of services in many sectors of the economy – energy, road and rail transport, banking and healthcare, as well as industrial control systems.

The Prime Minister of the Belarus has mandated the creation of a working group in charge of developing a strategy for in-country 5G implementation. The working group is expected to elaborate a strategy to support the deployment of 5G mobile networks in Belarus, and prepare comprehensive proposals regarding a model to be used for 5G implementation. The work has to be concluded by 2 March 2020, and drafts to be sent for approval by the President of Belarus. The working group will be chaired by the First Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Belarus, Mr Aleksander Turchin.

Telecom provider Makedonski Telekom has implemented the first 5G test network in the center of the capital city of North Macedonia, Skopje. The company has been working on 5G deployment over the past few years and it plans to start the testing of the 5G network in real situations in 2020. These tests will be used to prepare the launch of 5G networks for commercial uses.

Ericsson announced a partnership with telecom provider Azercell, formalised through a Memorandum of Understanding. The document sets the cooperation framework for the next three years (2020–2022) with the aim to deliver a 5G network test in the capital city of Azerbaijan, Baku, followed by an extension of the pilot zone, including 5G use cases, as well as the introduction of Internet of Things (IoT) technology in the mining industry, agriculture, manufacturing, housing and communal services.

Croatia, Cyprus, Greece and Slovenia joined 15 other EU countries within the framework of an initiative aimed at the development of a quantum communication infrastructure (QCI) across Europe. The QCI will consist of two elements: one based on earth, making use of existing fibre communication networks linking strategic sites throughout the EU, and the other based in space, to enable coverage of long distances across the EU and other continents. All 19 countries have signed the declaration of cooperation launched in June. The project is designed for ten years, and the parties will work together with the European Commission and the European Space Agency. The QCI is expected to link sensitive public and private communication assets all over the EU, and to shield national and cross-border critical information infrastructure against eavesdropping. In a recent white paper, 24 major European companies working in the quantum industry expressed their strong support for a QCI for Europe.

On 19 December 2019, several Internet access services were disrupted for a couple of hours in at least Bulgaria, Turkey and Iran, after ‘multiple simultaneous fibre cuts’. The cuts affected optic fibre networks connecting Iran and Bucharest, and Iran and Munich, but the cause is yet unknown. Google services were among the ones affected, and the company noted that it would publish a full incident report in the upcoming period.

During the 25th anniversary of the Azerbaijan International Telecommunications, Innovations and High Technologies Exhibition Bakutel 2019, the telecom company AzInTelecom operating under Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Transport, Communications and High Technologies (MTCHT) and the Belarusian National Traffic Exchange Center signed an agreement on the provision of international telecommunication services. The parties agreed to jointly test network deployments to assess the overall network quality, timely identify and adopt measures against unwanted attempts by third parties to interfere with international communication channels, and strengthen the fight against illegal transmission of international voice traffic. All of the above is expected to improve the quality of telecom services provided cross-border.

Croatia has started the transition of high-definition programs broadcasting to the new Digital Video Broadcasting — Second Generation Terrestrial (DVB-T2) system. All television programs will be transmitted simultaneously in the existing and new system, while the full transition is expected to be completed by mid-2020. The detailed plan of the current DVB-T system shutdown will be released shortly. For a smooth transition, end-users need to install a receiver capable of receiving a DVB-T2/High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) signal, which can be done by connecting a new freestanding terrestrial receiver (called the Set Top Box) to an existing TV or buying a new TV with a built-in DVB-T2 channel selector and HEVC video decoder. The transition of television broadcasting to DVB-T2 brings key advantages over the previous DVB-T, in particular, improvement of image quality allowing users to watch full HD television programs instead of the current SD (standard definition). In addition, the signal will be stronger and will provide broader coverage.

Domain Name System

The European Registry for Internet Domains (EURid) has formally launched .ευ – the Greek equivalent of .eu top-level domain, at a dedicated event held in Athens on 14 November 2019. Existing domain names with Greek characters under .eu will have three years to migrate to the new extension. The delegation of .ευ by ICANN had been delayed for several years, due to concerns about potential confusion between the Greek .ευ and the Latin .eu. The .ευ evaluation and delegation procedure is part of ICANN’s so-called IDN ccTLD Fast Track Process, launched in 2009 to allow countries and territories to request the delegation of Internationalised Domain Name (IDN) versions of their Latin-based country code top-level domain (ccTLD). In June 2016, the EURid launched the extension in the Cyrillic script (.ею).

On 1 November 2019, the Russian law on sovereign Internet came into force. It provides for the creation of an alternative domain name system (DNS), which in case of an emergency would allow Russia to disconnect itself from the rest of the Internet. What constitutes such an emergency is left at the discretion of the government. Additionally, the law demands more filtering by obliging Russian internet providers to buy and install deep package inspection (DPI) tools. Through  these measures Russia is aiming at enabling the routing of the country’s web traffic and data through national points. The law cannot be implemented yet as it still requires the implementation of appropriate technical means. Authorities are given time until January 2021 to install the necessary technology as prescribed by law. Kremlin reassures that, once the new law becomes effective, the users would not notice any change in their online activities. Supporters of the law argue it will improve cybersecurity, while its critics warn about the risk of censorship.

Artificial intelligence

The director of Serbian Government’s Office for information technologies and e-government, Mr Mihailo Jovanović and the director of Huawei in Serbia, Mr Li Mengqun have signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the establishment of a national platform for the development of artificial intelligence (AI). The AI development platform is part of a 13 million USD grant awarded by the China International Cooperation Development Agency. Huawei is expected to provide cloud infrastructure to the State Data Centre in Kragujevac, where the AI platform should be housed. In October 2019, the  Serbian Government formed a Working Group for drafting the Strategy for the Development of AI of the Republic of Serbia for the period 2020 – 2025.

Russia’s leading technology companies Gazprom Neft, Yandex, Mail.ru Group, Sberbank, MTS and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) have signed a Cooperation Agreement by which they established the country’s first cross-industry alliance to develop AI. The AI-Russia Alliance aims to support the creation of the necessary infrastructure for the rapid development of AI-based technologies; facilitate joint activities; and support the development of a regulatory framework for unmanned automotive and air transport, as well as legislation governing the use of personal data. Additionally, the Alliance will be coordinating the business community’s and scientific organisations’ activities in line with plans for implementing the National Strategy for the Development of AI until 2030. The Alliance will also organise and conduct scientific and expert analysis, facilitate international cooperation in AI, develop a professional community of specialists and organisations active in AI and data analytics, and run research platforms for testing the practical application of technologies.

Cybersecurity

From 11 to 15 November 2019, the Serbian Armed Forces and the Ohio Army National Guard (USA) held a drill entitled ’Cyber Tesla 2019’, in Gornji Milanovac. The drill, which has taken place annually since 2016, has the purpose of testing the protection of the telecommunication and information system from cyber attacks. The National Centre for Security Risk Prevention in ICT Systems (CERT) within the Regulatory Agency for Electronic Communications and Postal Services of Serbia (RATEL) had coordination and operational role in the drill preparation. According to RATEL, compared to previous drills, the 2019 edition had more participants, better infrastructure, and the emphasis was on the importance of incident reporting and response coordination.

The Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunication of Serbia, the Regulatory Agency for Electronic Communications and Postal Services of Serbia (RATEL), Norway Embassy in Serbia and the United Nation Office for Project Services in Serbia (UNOPS) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the implementation of activities under the Norway for You – Serbia project. In the framework of this project, Norway is expected to allocate EUR 1,2 million for strengthening information security within the Serbian Government. Support is expected to be provided for the development of a draft Information Security Development Strategy; a revision of the Criteria for Critical Infrastructure Identification; and the purchase of the equipment for a platform for performing cyber exercises, which should be used for capacity building within the National Centre for Security Risk Prevention in ICT Systems (National CERT within RATEL) and other CERTs in Serbia. The anticipated activities should be implemented by UNOPS until September 2021.

In the framework of the project Empowering local governments in information security regulation implementation, a workshop on information security was held in the Serbian city of Niš on 5 November 2019, and it was organised by the Serbian Agency for Electronic Communications and Postal Service (RATEL), the National Alliance for Local Economic Growth (NALED), the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications (MTTT) and the Office for Information Technologies and eGovernment. The aim of the workshop was to strengthen information security capacities among local authorities, and to develop a reliable and user-oriented public administration. Representatives of 16 local governments were acquainted with the requirements defined by the information security regulations.

 

Access

The representatives of the electronic communications regulatory bodies and line ministries from the Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries and the EU (members of the Roaming Services Working Group (REWG)) participated in the Roaming Stakeholders Meeting held in Vilnius, Lithuania, on 12 November. The main purpose of the event was to examine the legal options proposed by the experts of the EU4Digital project with a view to concluding a Regional Roaming Agreement (RRA) between the EaP countries. The participants also discussed the optimal options for all the six countries of the EaP (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine) and presented the progress made in the process of implementing the roadmap for the conclusion of the RRA. Particular attention was paid to the development of a regulatory platform to improve national regulations on roaming markets, as well as on new challenges and gains in regulated markets of EU member states and partner countries.

Ten investors have expressed their interest in supporting the Greek Ultrafast Broadband (UFBB): nine of them are local enterprises representing telecommunications (Cosmote, Vodafone and Wind), energy (Public Power Corporation and State Grid) and construction (Avax, Intrakat, Mytilineos and Terna Energy) sectors, and one – Oman Fiber Optic (OFO) – coming from abroad. The UFBB project is expected to cover the majority of the country’s areas not included in the business plans of telecommunications providers, which means approximately 2.5 million citizens at the national level. The total budget of the UFBB project equals to EUR 870 million. The project is designed for the upcoming 20 years. After the end of the concession period, all the project’s infrastructure will be fully owned by the Greek government.

Wireless Internet access was enabled in 29 trains in Slovenia by the end of November 2019, and a similar service is to be provided on other three routes by the end of the year The national railway operator Slovenske Železnice is responsible for the implementation of the wireless Internet access technology. To provide ‘the best possible coverage and connection speed’, the operator will rely on services provided by telecom companies Telekom Slovenije and A1 Slovenija. 

Capacity development

The State University of Economics of Armenia, the Union of Operators of Armenia and ARPINET Limited Liability Company signed a Memorandum of Understanding at the University of Economics, aimed at supporting the development of the education and science sectors in Armenia. One of the elements outlined in the MoU envisions the launch of joint master’s programme called Information Technologies in Business. The programme will be offered at the University of Economics starting with the academic year 2020–2021, and will give students a comprehensive understanding of technology management, cybersecurity, the startup systems, economics, and administration. This master’s degree programme will last for 1.5 years.

The Serbian Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications (MTTT) and the American Chamber of Commerce have launched the Girls in Tech programme, which aims to provide mentoring and internships in successful ICT companies to students of elementary and master’s studies from the faculties of Belgrade and Novi Sad. The State Secretary at the MTTT, Ms Tatjana Matić stressed that greater involvement of women in digital evolution brings benefits both to their empowerment and to the whole ICT sector. This mentoring programme is part of the state’s Women’s Empowerment Programme in the field of ICT for the period 2019-2020.

The Vodafone Foundation Romania in partnership with World Vision Romania Foundation have announced an increased impact of the School in a Box project, reaching out to 8 000 beneficiaries in 2019, from 3 500 in 2018, after it has been implemented in ten schools from the rural areas of Vaslui, Ilfov, Ialomița, Cluj, Brașov and Vâlcea counties. The project aims at developing the digital skills of teachers and students in primary and secondary schools in rural areas. It uses an e-learning platform www.scoaladinvaliza.ro and an Instant classroom mobile box fitted with technological equipment consisting of a laptop for the teacher, 25 tablets for students, a video projector, a sound system, a built-in equipment charging solution, a built-in Wi-Fi router, and a 4G modem.

An Inno-tech Club platform was launched in North Macedonia, with partial support from the US government through its Alumni Innovation Engagement programme. The platform is aimed to promote among youth the role of science, technology and innovation in the economic growth and development of the country. Coordinated by the Faculty of Technology and Metallurgy, Inno-tech will facilitate Inno Cafe events in major cities across the country, to motivate young people to pursue careers in the technological field.

Development

The Serbian Government’s Office for information technologies and e-government and the World Bank have officially presented the project Enabling Digital Governance (EDGE) on 13 November 2019. The project aims to establish a resilient hardware and software infrastructure for e-government in Serbia, which is expected to enable the secure provision of all public administration services via the Internet or mobile phones in the upcoming three to four years. Communication between state bodies, citizens and business is expected to become completely electronic, which should make public administration significantly more efficient.

The compulsory integration of all existing centralised electronic applications and information systems of public sector entities in the central Government Cloud Infrastructure (G-Cloud), managed by the General Secretariat for Information Systems and Public Administration (GSISPA), is advancing, according to the Greek Ministry of State and Digital Governance. The overall process of migration to the cloud includes several elements: any infrastructure (other than those classified) maintained by the public authorities is indexed; all existing electronic applications and central information systems of ministries, independent authorities, and other public entities, are concentrated in the G-Cloud, and the GSISPA is becoming solely responsible for the conclusion of agreements concerning the supply of software platforms to cover public sector entities. Infrastructure assessment and indexing processes will take place within six months, and then all governmental services will be deployed in the G-Cloud. The process is scheduled to be completed by 1 January 2022.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Global Digital Heritage (GDH) has donated equipment and software for photogrammetric digitalisation of exhibits to researchers of the Sarajevo Graphics Group within the University of Sarajevo Faculty of Electrical Engineering. During a two-day visit to Sarajevo, GDH President, Mr Herbert Maschner, and Science Director, Mr Victor Manchero, spent two days in Sarajevo (12–14 November 2019) presented the first results of the digitalisation of the collections of the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Museum of Sarajevo. The GDH team will also conduct training for Sarajevo Graphics Group and museum staff. In the next stage, GDH plans to digitise large objects and archaeological complexes using drones, in cooperation with the Association DIGI.BA and the BH Archaeologists.

On 14 November 2019, the Prime Minister of Armenia, Mr Nikol Pashinyan, held a consultative meeting on the Digital Agenda of the Republic of Armenia and the vision for its implementation. It was decided that the Ministry of High-Tech Industry will be responsible for setting standards and regulations for digitalisation processes in the country. The Minister of High-Tech Industry, Mr Hakob Arshakyan, noted that a digitalisation strategy has been developed for the period 2020–2025, to ensure digital transformation in the government, economy, and society. During the meeting, discussions also revolved around the reform of the public administration, will be rolled out in several stages which will cover: policy development and coordination, public service and human resources management, provision of public services, accountability and integrity, and institutional and functional modernisation. Moreover, it was emphasised that the digitalisation processes should be carried out in line with high-quality standards, while taking into account the need to ensure the interoperability of existing and new systems.

The Ministry for Information Society and Public Administration in North Macedonia has launched a National Portal for E-services. The portal provides access to 127 e-services, out of which 57 are introduced online for the first time. Through this portal citizens will be able to apply for and obtain different certificates/receipts online, to send different requests, and receive information. The portal is enabled by a Single Login System, which allows citizens and companies to use the same username, password and digital certificate to access e-services provided by all public institutions.

Turkish telecom provider Turkcell in partnership with the Informatics Industry Association (TUBISAD) has launched the Recycle into Education project. The idea behind the project is to collect electronic waste at techno waste recycling boxes in all Turkcell stores throughout Turkey, and to donate the income received from recycling to the Educational Volunteers Foundation of Turkey (TEGV). Users can donate for recycling all kinds of desktop and laptop computers, tablets, monitors and printers, computer elements, audio, video and music systems, DVD readers and satellite receivers, desk phones and mobile phones, and all other techno-waste that is not used in households, homes, schools or workplaces anymore. The Recycle into Education project is expected to help to protect nature, save natural resources and contribute to the education of children. The project involves all technology users in Turkey and is aimed at supporting the provision of environmentally friendly and sustainable services.

The Azercell mobile operator and the Information and Computing Center of the Ministry of Transport, Communications and High Technologies of Azerbaijan signed a memorandum on the implementation of a new mobile solution SmartCell. The service combines facial recognition and electronic signature technologies and enables the conclusion of electronic subscription agreements between a mobile operator and a client (by comparing the received image with a photo of the client’s identification card and using an electronic signature for authentication). The SmartCell system is described as having several advantages for operators and end-users, including time efficiency, the use of electronic contracts and electronic signatures, Face ID identification systems, and ensuring sales only by authorised persons. In the future, the SmartCell technology is expected to be introduced in the banking and financial sectors.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the government of Republika Srpska has approved a Strategy for the development of e-government. The strategy recognised the importance of an e-government system to better serve the needs of the business sector and the citizens of Srpska, as well as the requirements of individual public administration bodies. The strategy is based on three main pillars: the development of ICT infrastructure, the development of electronic services as the essence of e-government, and the development of human resources in the ICT domain within public administration. The document itself envisages a total of 65 measures: 26 relate to the ICT infrastructure, 29 to the development of e-services, and 10 to the development of human resources. The strategy is included within the Republic’s budget for 2020.

Consumer protection

RCS&RDS telecom operator won another appeal against the Romanian National Authority for Consumer Protection (ANPC). The Bucharest Court of Appeal (CAB) cancelled a decision of the authority that sanctioned the company with 70 000 LEI, at the end of May, for increasing prices of some services, as reported by the Romanian publication Profit.ro. The decision can still be appealed. Before this, in August 2019, the operator obtained the annulment of another order by the ANPC blocking RCS&RDS’s intention to increase some subscription tariffs. A similar decision had been granted in favour of another telecom company, Vodafone, earlier during the summer.

The Romanian National Authority for Management and Regulation in Communications (ANCOM) has published a Guidebook containing instructions for providers regarding the specification of Internet speeds and procedures of their measurement in the contracts concluded with end-users of fixed and mobile Internet access services. Providers are legally obliged to envisage quality indicators of Internet speed in their contracts. The Guidebook is currently available in Romanian and includes best practice examples, suggests ways to indicate speed values, factors that might impede the quality and should be explained to the user, recommended conditions for carrying out measurements, as well as specifics of speed measurement and complaint procedures. ANCOM also encourages users to report the deterioration of Internet speeds and verify the actual performance of Internet access services by using the Netograf application. Based on the measurements carried out on Netograf, ANCOM publishes an annual report.

The Hellenic Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT) has issued a regulation requiring Greek Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to better inform subscribers about the offered network speed guarantees. One requirement is that ISPs inform customers about the real and the guaranteed Internet speed performance, and the compensation to be granted to a subscriber in case of deviations from the guaranteed speed. Also, ISPs must provide information on how the subscriber can check the guaranteed speed and detect deviations from it, and how and when the provider informs the users about potential deviations from the guaranteed speed.

Taxation

On 19 December 2019, the Moldovan Parliament adopted the state budget for the year 2020 which includes, among others, a tax for international tech companies such as Google, Netflix and others. These companies will have to register until 1 April 2020 as tax residents and pay a 20% tax on profits earned in Moldova. According to official sources, this tax is expected to bring at least EUR 5 million to the country’s budget. The Finance Ministry argues that it wishes to ensure fair competition between national and international tech companies, while also acknowledging that the tax will create a precedent in the region, as well as a challenge for the institution. Critics of the tax argue that it is a wrong move, as it will mainly harm small IT entrepreneurs. Economic expert Veaceslav Negruț warned that some big international companies may refuse to pay taxes in Moldova and provide services under the new regulations. It is not clear, he adds, how exactly this law will be enforced upon companies that refuse to pay. Blocking their services in the country would cause significant problems for local companies and also affect end-users. 

 

Economic issues

The Ukrainian Ministry of Digital Transformation has signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Belarusian company Currency.com on developing Ukrainian legislation in the field of IT and cryptocurrencies. Currency.com is the first regulated cryptocurrencies and tokenised securities exchange in the Commonwealth of Independent States. A working group will be created under the ministry, which – with the support of experts from Currency.com – will be in charge of drafting legislative proposals using the Belarusian experience. The success of enabling legislation in Belarus is demonstrated by the High-Tech Park model, which is a special tax and legal ecosystem aimed at creating favourable conditions for the development of information and communication technologies, and, thus, contributing to higher competitiveness of the national economy. Such a model is seen as potentially beneficial for the stimulation of the national IT sector in Ukraine.

On 11 December 2019 Slovenia launched a national test blockchain infrastructure – SI-Chain, dedicated to enabling the testing existing and new blockchain applications for the public and private sectors. SI-Chain – an initiative of tech company Hashnet and telecom provider Telemach – will enable blockchain-based transactions and the conclusion of smart contracts. Present at the launch event, the Minister for economic development and technology, Mr Zdravko Počivalšek, highlighted that the important role of blockchain technology for the development, efficiency, performance, and competitiveness of the Slovenian economy.

The State Duma of Russia adopted a law that will oblige electronic products sellers in the country to install made-in-Russian software on their gadgets, starting 1 July 2020. The list of products on which Russian software will have to be installed will be determined by the government. According to its initiators, the law is aimed at ensuring that users are provided with Internet access and communication services when buying smartphones or computers without the need to install additional mobile applications and other programs for gadgets. Moreover, this would help promote Russian products in the information technology market and reduce the monopoly of large tech companies such as Google and Microsoft. However, Russian NGO RosKomSvoboda claims that this law poorly specifies the regulations under which it will be enforced and it may have negative consequences for the market and for users’ privacy.

Copyright

In Greece, the owner of an e-piracy website was convicted for illegal activities. In line with a decision of the Three-member Appeal Court of Felonies of Komotini, the owner of the websites greekstars.net and greekstars.co was sentenced to five years in prison for distributing intellectual property protected content without the necessary rights. Although he was criminally prosecuted four times between 2009 and 2012 and convicted in the past from the Three-member Appeal Court of Felonies of Thessaloniki and arrested for running the website greekstars.biz, he continued his activities by changing the domain name of the website. This conviction is expected to act as legal precedent for similar future cases, especially for the ones where the domain name ss changed multiple times to avoid legal implications.

Privacy and data protection

The Romanian National Supervisory Authority for Personal Data Processing (ANSPDCP) announced in November and December 2019 six new fines and sanctions for non-compliance with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The biggest one – EUR 80 000 – was imposed on the ING Bank N.V. Amsterdam – Bucharest branch, for insufficient technical and organisational measures to ensure information security, particularly by not respecting the principles of privacy by design and privacy by default. Other fines were imposed as follows: SC CNTAR TAROM SA – EUR 20 000 for insufficient technical and organisational measures to ensure information security; Royal President S.R.L. – EUR 2 500 for insufficient fulfilment of data subjects rights; Globus Score SRL – EUR 2 000 for insufficient cooperation with the supervisory authority; Telekom Romania Mobile Communications SA – EUR 2 000 or insufficient technical and organisational measures to ensure information security and insufficient fulfilment of data subjects rights; Modern Barber S.R.L – EUR 3 000 and Nicola Medical Team 17 SRL –EUR  2 000 for insufficient cooperation with the supervisory authority.

Serbia and North Macedonia are the 36th and the 37th signatories of the Protocol amending Convention 108 for the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data. The Permanent Representative of Serbia to the Council of Europe, Ambassador Aleksandra Đurović, signed the Protocol on 22 November and the Minister for Justice of North Macedonia, Ms Renata Deskoska, signed the same document on 5 December 2019. Experts remark that this step in adopting an international data protection standard is especially significant for North Macedonia, considering that the country does not have the GDPR Adequacy level status, nor has it adopted new legislation that would reflect the GDPR. On the other side, Bulgaria, which was one of the first signatories, is the first country that ratified the Convention 108+ on 10 December 2019. The updated protocol, colloquially referred to as the Convention 108+, was passed in May 2018 with the aim to better address emerging privacy challenges related to use of new information and communication technologies and to strengthen the implementation of the Convention adopted in 1981. Changes introduced in 2018 include new obligations for data controllers (e.g. guaranteeing the transparency of data processing and notifying security breaches) and rights for data subjects (e.g. the right to obtain knowledge of the reasoning underlying the data processing, and the right not to be subject to a decision solely based on an automated processing without taking the data subject’s views into consideration).

Content policy & Freedom of expression

According to the Freedom House’s newly published report Freedom on the Net 2019: The Crisis of Social Media, the global Internet freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year. The report, covering the period between June 2018 and May 2019, ranks countries by scores between 0 (least free) and 100 (most free). The Internet in the seven SEE+ countries assessed in the report is qualified as free in Armenia (with a score of 76) and Georgia (75), partially free in Ukraine (56), and not free in Azerbaijan (39), Turkey (37), Belarus (35), and Russia (31). Among these, Armenia is the only country where no key Internet controls – KIC (i.e. censorship and control measures imposed by the government in the digital sphere) were observed. In Georgia, the only KIC observed was pro-government commentators manipulating online discussions. Other KICs were observed as follows: social media or communications platforms blocked (Russia, Ukraine); political, social, or religious content blocked (Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine); ICT networks deliberately disrupted (Azerbaijan, Russia); pro-government commentators manipulating online discussions (Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine); new law or directive increasing censorship or punishment passed (Belarus, Russia); new law or directive increasing surveillance or restricting anonymity passed (Belarus, Russia);  blogger or ICT user arrested, imprisoned, or in prolonged detention for political or social content (Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine); blogger or ICT user physically attacked or killed (Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine); and technical attacks against government critics of human rights organisations (Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine).

On 18 December 2019, the Albanian Parliament approved two media laws known as the ’anti-defamation package’ despite a protest by journalists and warnings from international organisations. The Law Amending the Law on Audiovisual Media in the Republic of Albania gives new competences to the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA). The Complaints Council, which is a part of the AMA, will now have the legal authority to oversee the implementation of the law, the Audiovisual Code and the other regulations approved by the AMA. Moreover, this law gives the Complaints Council the power to oblige electronic publications service providers to publish an apology, remove content or insert a pop-up notice in cases of violations of provisions on dignity and privacy. In case of a breach of the law, the Council can impose administrative fines that vary from ALL 100 000  to ALL 1 million. Adopted amendments to the Law on Electronic Communications open the way for new regulations of online media, not only from AMA but also from the Authority of Postal and Electronic Communications (AKEP): the law exposes providers of electronic communications which do not abide by AKEP rulings/orders related to acts and decisions of the Complaints Council of AMA, or any other body with legal competences in this field, to fines up to 100 million ALL. Journalists, civil society and international organisations condemned the adoption of the laws stressing that they undermine freedom of expression. Authorities claimed that the laws are intended to protect the wellbeing of public servants and businessmen who constantly have to protect themself from media accusations.

Some Belarusian users drew attention to the inaccessibility of several secure mail services, including ProtonMail. There is no official information from authorities about an imposed block. However, earlier in June this year, there were repeated reports that the ProtonMail service was not available in Belarus. Presumably, this is because the service is used not only by ordinary users for confidential correspondence, but also by the so-called ‘Internet miners’ who send messages to the security forces or make calls about allegedly planted bombs at various sites. ‘Although the government did not make any statements about the reasons for blocking ProtonMail,’ the mail service said, ‘it was allegedly due to suspicions of one of our users in criminal activity. We always take decisive measures against illegal activities through our website, and we are happy to help law enforcement agencies through appropriate legal channels. However, we do not believe that the mass blocking of Proton is justified, and we condemn this form of Internet censorship.’ The service, through its counterparties in Minsk, confirmed that certain Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of ProtonMail servers were blocked by Internet providers, as a result of which ProtonMail and ProtonVPN services became unavailable within Belarus.

 

National and youth IGF initiatives

National and youth IGF initiatives that had meetings in November and December 2019

The fifth Youth IGF Turkey was held in Ankara under the theme Future of Work and Digital Skills. The topics on the agenda of this year’s forum were blockchain technologies, IoT, AI and ethics, education technology, and the future of work. The forum was hosted by the .tr registry (nic.tr) and supported by the Media Literacy Association Turkey, the Habitat Association, the Internet Society’s European Regional Bureau, and Internet Society Turkey.

This year, Minsk hosted the 4th national IGF that gathered around 400 participants from eight countries, including representatives of governments, private sector, civil society and regular Internet users. The agenda was focused around five thematic discussions: Internet fragmentation, digital transformation, the Internet as a media, the Internet as an inclusive environment, technology’s usefulness and safety, and motives behind voluntary trading off privacy for convenience and entertainment. The forum was hosted by the hosting service provider company – hoster.by.    

The national IGF was preceded by the first Youth IGF, aimed at providing the digital generation with a platform to voice their thoughts and concerns regarding the Internet. The young generation listened to an introductory lecture on Internet governance, participated in an interactive debate regarding the Internet as a threat or opportunity, and discussed specific examples of bullying and hate. A world cafe session gave participants an opportunity to ask questions to experts representing various Internet-related fields – Internet marketing, online forums, journalism, IT or HR specialists, human rights defenders, civil society activists, etc.

The fifth edition of the Georgian IGF brought together up to 200 participants from the private and public sectors to discuss Internet and digital policy issues of relevance for the local community. The forum was opened by representatives of the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, the Council of Europe Office in Georgia, the Internet Society, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and the RIPE Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC). The first panel, dedicated to broadband development in Georgia, covered issues such as Georgian broadband market development and main tendencies, the Georgian broadband development strategy, and 5G perspectives. The second panel focused on Internet content and online media regulation and self-regulating, with intense debates on aspects related to liabilities of the Internet intermediaries and host providers. Other discussions touched on child safety online, cybersecurity, IoT opportunities and challenges, and the use of personal data in the public sector.

The fifth Croatian IGF (CRO-IGF) held in Zagreb gathered representatives of the business sector, civil society, government and academia interested in the future of the Internet. The forum was opened by the President of the Council of the Croatian Regulatory Authority for Network Industries (HAKOM), Mr Tonko Obuljen. The main topics discussed during the forum were cybersecurity of 5G networks and AI. Panellists highlighted the issues of developing autonomous weapons that require regulation at the global level, responsibilities of hardware manufacturers, and the need for certification of security systems to better counter cyber-attacks and mitigate their effects (especially in the context of 5G networks).

Opportunities

Fellowships, scholarships, events and other engagement opportunities for SEE+ stakeholders

Upcoming deadlines

The Educational Advising Center announced the 24th edition of the Merit Scholarships programme for the best students in Moldova. The programme is organised under the auspices of the Council of Chancellors of Moldova, with the financial support of Moldova Agroindbank SA and Orange Moldova.

Within the program, 50 stipends of LEI 12 000 each are offered, on a contest basis, as follows: 35 stipends for last year undergraduate students; and 15 stipends – for first-year graduate students. This programme aims to restate the prestige of qualitative higher education from Moldova and to encourage students towards academic performance and active participation in research and extracurricular activities. Detailed application rules are available in Romanian, while the application form can be found both in Romanian and Russian. The application deadline is 20 January 2020.

The Cybercrime Programme Office of the Council of Europe (C-PROC) based in Bucharest has launched a call for consultancy services on cybercrime and electronic evidence for short-term consultants on an ad-hoc basis.  Applicants should submit a CV, a cover letter, a sample of at least two relevant reports and two presentations in English or French, and optionally reports and presentations in other languages if available. Detailed information about the position and requirements can be found in the call. The deadline for applications is 31 January 2020.

The Science Fund of Serbia has launched a Programme for developing projects in the field of AI, with the aim to encourage research in AI, as well as the implementation of research results. Thematic areas of the programme are general AI, machine learning, natural language processing, planning, knowledge reasoning, computer vision and speech communication, and intelligent systems. The maximum budget per project, which should last up to two years, is EUR 200 000. Necessary project documentation and instructions for preparing and submitting project proposals can be found on the website of the Science Fund. The call is open until 31 January 2020.

Upcoming events

16 January 2020 | Nicosia, Cyprus

20–22 January 2020 | Rimske Toplice, Slovenia

23 January 2020 | Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

23 January 2020 | Bucharest, Romania

25–27 January 2020 | Rijeka, Croatia

30 January 2020 | Zagreb, Croatia

7–13 January 2020 | Zagreb, Croatia

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Editorial note

The SEEsummary is produced on a best effort basis, by our team of volunteer editors. Each month, the editors scan local and regional media, as well as websites of public institutions and other organisations, and compile what they find to be some of the most significant digital policy developments.

The SEEsummary does not claim to be a comprehensive source of information. Despite our efforts, we may miss some things happening across the region. To help us cover as many significant developments as possible, we invite you to share with us news from your countries.

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