SEEsummary #30 | July & August 2019

Issue no. 30 of the SEEsummary, published on 1 September 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 in July and August 2019. Also included: a list of upcoming events (September 2019) and an overview of upcoming capacity development opportunities for SEE+ stakeholders.

Contributors to this issue: Maja Ćalović, Andrijana Gavrilović, Katarine Gevorgyan, Su Sonia Herring, Aleksandra Ivanković, Ana Jovanović, Stelios Kavvadias, Olga Kyryliuk, Oliana Sula, Veronica Ștefan, Sorina Teleanu. Design by Charalampos Kyritsis.

Telecommunications infrastructure

The National Authority for Management and Regulation in Communications (ANCOM) of Romania is going ahead with its previously announced plans to award usage rights for the 5G dedicated spectrum (in the 800 MHz, 1500MHz, 2600MHz and 3400-3800MHz) by the end of 2019. The authority launched a public consultation on the documentation for organising the competitive selection procedure for granting 5G licenses. Telekom Romania, one of the country’s major telecom operators, called on the authorities to postpone the 5G auction for a few months, to allow companies to better prepare for the bidding and secure necessary funds. Other providers of electronic communication services seem to be concerned about several requirements of the selection procedure, such as one which would force operators to provide mobile Internet services at 100Mbps even in remote areas.

Meanwhile, the Romanian government concluded a memorandum of understanding with the USA on the development of 5G technology. According to media sources, the two governments committed to applying several conditions to 5G-related public auctions. For example, when evaluating bids, authorities would have to check whether the bidding providers are under the control of another state, are subject to legal frameworks which impose transparent business practices, and have a track record of ethical business behaviour. 

In Bulgaria, Telenor has started 5G trials to explore the technology’s capabilities and prepare for a commercial launch. The company is using a six-month temporary licence allocated by the Bulgaria Communications Regulation Commission for the 3440-3540MHz band.

In July, Kalamata became the first city in Greece where a pilot 5G network was deployed. Huawei and Wind Hellas, one of the prominent mobile network providers of the country, jointly deployed antenna systems that provide free 5G Wi-Fi access in central points of the city, such as the main square and the town hall. The commercial distribution(frequency allocation) of 5G is expected at the beginning of 2021.

Russian companies and authorities are joining forces to develop a 5G roadmap. As part of a trilateral agreement with the government, electronics corporation Rostec and national telecom operator Rostelecom will draft roadmap provisions regarding the development of 5G technologies in Russia, while Rostelecom will prepare provisions on 5G infrastructure deployment and encouraging market demand. Other roadmap sections will cover 5G frequencies and technical requirements and specifications of technological solutions for end-users, among others. At the same time, the Sozvezdi concern (a subsidiary of Rostec) announced that it has started to develop domestic equipment for 5G mobile communications.

In line with agreements on 5G development signed between Russia’s main mobile network operators MegaFon, MTS, VimpelCom, and T2 Mobil, a pilot project for the deployment of a 5G network in Moscow is underway. By the end of 2019, several locations in the Russian capital are expected to be covered by 5G. During the pilot, the operators will also test the interoperability of the 5G network with previous-generation networks, and study the technology’s functionality.

The European Union has allocated 600 000 EUR for Montenegro to develop the design documentation for a project that will strengthen the digital sector. The Montenegro government mentions that the money will be used to advance the project ‘Development of infrastructure for broadband Internet Access’, particularly emphasising the development of a next-generation network (NGN) and high-speed broadband connectivity, at the national level. This initial funding will be primarily used to analyse existing infrastructure and market potential, as well as to draft a national programme and plan that would define, among others, future financing mechanisms. The EU funding was announced at the Western Balkans Investment Framework meeting, organised in Berlin.

Cyprus has joined 28 other European countries under the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking aimed at building world-class high-performance computing (HPC) resources and data infrastructures in Europe. The initiative was launched in November 2018, and in June 2019 it announced the selection of eight sites in eight participating countries to host its first supercomputers. These machines are expected to constitute a strategic resource for Europe, helping users to find solutions to key scientific and societal challenges, such as medical research and personalised healthcare, climate modelling and weather forecasting, complex encryption technologies, and the production of more innovative goods and services. The Joint Undertaking will also support the development of a European innovation ecosystem in supercomputing technologies, applications and skills, as well as provide support for HPC Competence Centres in participating countries.

The European Commission has started an in-depth investigation against the Hellenic Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT) regarding a review of the fixed wholesale high-quality access market in Greece. The EETT proposed to withdraw an access obligation and all other remedies including price control and non-discrimination for terminating segments of leased lines for speeds over 4 Mbit/s in the area of Athens and Piraeus, where OTE – the largest telecom provider in Greece – enjoys a retail market share for the leased lines of above 40%. The Commission has questioned the adequacy of the geographical competitive conditions analysis, the proportionality of remedies, and the legality of the proposal to skip ex-ante margin squeeze control for very large public contracts with 10 000 lines or more. The latter might allow OTE to make further volume discounts, which would not be replicable by alternative operators using wholesale access to terminating segments of leased lines. Currently, the Commission has three months to discuss the draft measure with the EETT, in close cooperation with the body of European regulators, and afterwards either lift its reservations or issue a Recommendation under Article 7a of the Framework Directive.

Access

Within the framework of RUNE project co-funded by the European Union and the European Investment Bank (through the Connecting Europe Broadband Fund), an investment of 200 million EUR will be allocated to build broadband optical networks in rural parts of Slovenia. This project aims to bring 10Gbps Internet to rural households and is expected to be completed within three years. The RUNE project is also being implemented in Croatia, where it will benefit from an investment of 50 million EUR.

The European Commission has approved 300 million EUR of public support for the Greek Ultrafast Broadband Infrastructure Scheme that would facilitate the deployment of broadband networks for ultra-fast Internet (download speed of at least 100 Mbps, upgradable to 1 Gbps) in areas with insufficient connectivity and no private investment. The aid will be awarded through an open and transparent selection procedure. The subsidised network will offer full access to all operators on a non-discriminatory basis, while the access prices will be under the control of the national regulatory authority (EETT). The measure is expected to incentivise private investments in further connectivity and facilitate competition. The scheme, to be financed through the European Regional Development Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, and private investments, will contribute to the EU strategic objectives set out in the Digital Agenda for Europe and in the Communication ‘Towards a European Gigabit Society’.

The Western Balkans regional roaming agreement entered into force as of 1 July 2019. Signed at the Western Balkans Digital Summit held in April 2019 in Belgrade, the agreement means that electronic communications users in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia pay less when they are roaming within the region: calls are now up to eight times cheaper, while the costs for mobile Internet services have dropped on average from 3EUR/MB to 0.20EUR/MB. It is expected that further reduction of roaming charges will be in place as of 1 January 2020.

Belarus and Russia are actively discussing ways to cancel roaming fees by the end of this year or in early 2020. On 15 September, the parties are expected to sign a roadmap that will specify all the deadlines and activities needed to reach the goal. After that, the preparatory period might take from six to nine months before the roaming tariffs will be fully cancelled. For the initial period, the parties have agreed to decrease roaming fees in order to make them commensurate with the fees for the calls inside the country. It was also suggested to amend the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) Treaty with regard to the principles of fair roaming, and subsequently to amend respective national legislation and joint practices of mobile operators that would allow to decrease roaming fees within the whole union and to put mobile operators within the scope of anti-monopoly authorities’ remit.

The Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Union within the Serbian government has published a report on digital inclusion in Serbia for the period 2014–2018. The report provides an overview of legal, strategic and institutional frameworks dedicated to advance digital skills at the national level. The document notes that digital literacy has the potential to bridge the gap between those who have access to information and communications technologies (ICTs) and those who do not enjoy such access and usually belong to socially disadvantaged groups and communities, including persons with disabilities and people living in remote areas. More efforts are needed to ensure that these communities benefit from access to digital technologies. On the positive side, significant progress has been made in the field of education, with several legislative amendments being introduced over four years. One consequence was that information technology is now a mandatory subject from the fifth grade. The report also looks at the use of digital technologies in health and social protection.

Cybersecurity & cybercrime

In what some describe as ‘the first publicly known major data breach in Bulgaria, an attack on the country’s tax agency – the National Revenue Agency (NRA) – has compromised the financial and personal data of millions of taxpayers. The breach of servers happened at the end of June and it exposed the names of millions of people and companies, as well as information about incomes, tax declarations, health insurance payments and loans. Bulgaria’s finance minister, Mr Vladislav Goranov, has apologised for the attack, which was seen by some as a consequence of inadequate cybersecurity practices at the agency. NRA was later fined with almost 3 million USD for the data breach. In late July, two individuals working at a Bulgarian cybersecurity company were charged with terrorism as part of the data breach investigation. Both individuals deny the accusations.

On 30 July 2019,  an agreement was signed between the Coordination Center for TLD .RU/.РФ and the National Computer Incident Coordination Center (NCICC), recognising NCICC as a competent organisation with the Coordination Center. In this new role, the NCICC will contribute to countering the use of domain names registered under the .RU/.РФ country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) for attacks on Russian information resources. ‘The NCICC will identify phishing websites and sources of malware, and monitor the activities of bot networks and other computer attacks involving Russian ccTLDs. The NCICC’s many years of expertise and professionalism will enhance the work of the competent organisations and help make the Russian domain space safer,’ said Coordination Center Director Mr Andrei Vorobyov. As of now, ten competent organisations cooperate with the Coordination Center; they work on collecting and analysing information regarding .RU/.РФ websites with criminal activities (malware attacks, phishing, managing bot networks etc.) to stop domain name abuse.

Capacity development

The Future Class project continues to expand in Moldova. In a response to a new selection round announced in July 2019, 75 applications were submitted by educational institutions from 30 localities in the country, with only 20 being selected as beneficiaries of the project. It is expected that 16 393 students will benefit from flexible learning spaces and enjoy more than 30 types of digital technologies and equipment in the learning process. The project is implemented under the slogan ‘learn differently’ and is aimed at creating favourable conditions for the transformation of education, inspiring interdisciplinary and innovative pedagogical approaches involving the use of digital technologies.

Turkish electronic communications operator Turkcell has joined the Business Call to Action (BCtA) aimed at accelerating progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals by challenging companies to develop inclusive business models. Turkcell undertook a commitment to provide training opportunities to approximately 4000 low-income women in Turkey and upskill a total of 200 female employees to become tester experts by 2021. The company has been working on strengthening women participation in the digital workforce since 2017, when it launched its Women Developers of the Future project aimed at training women on mobile application development and entrepreneurship.

The Data Science Summer School, the first initiative of its kind in Armenia, took place on 1–14 July 2019 at the American University of Armenia with the support of telecom provider Beeline Armenia. The goal of the Summer School was to help the participants gain technical skills and knowledge in the field of data science. Students from various backgrounds learned the basics, primary tools and technologies of data science, and used this knowledge to design digital projects. Three teams were awarded cash prizes for projects with the most effective and complex technical solutions.

Development

The Regional Cooperation Council has released the 2019 edition of its Balkan Barometer, an annual survey of public and business perceptions and attitudes across a variety of economic, social and political issues. The analytical report suggests that digitalisation continues to be an underutilised resource by Balkan economies (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia). Internet coverage is no longer a region-wide concern, but there are still many individuals who do not use the Internet (26%). In Albania, for example, 38% of individuals do not use the Internet at all (the highest percentage in the region). 

The Internet is primarily used as a tool in communication (54%) in the region, as well as a source of news (37%) and entertainment (35%). Very few individuals pay bills online (4%) or use e-government services (2%). Lack of confidence in e-services and concerns about online security are the main reasons behind a limited interest in web-based transactions. 

When it comes to training, only a few of the respondents (on average, one out of ten) pursued training and development opportunities in the use of digital technologies over the past year. North Macedonia is the region’s leader in exploiting the Internet as a tool in education (34%), while individuals in Bosnia and Herzegovina have the lowest interest in improving digital literacy. Speed/bandwidth (33%) and reliability/stability of connection (28%) are the two aspects of Internet use deemed most important by individuals in the region. 

When it comes to the private sector, the rate of innovation among SEE companies is relatively low (30-40% across 3 years), and businesses struggle to follow global and regional trends. This could be attributed to a lack of cooperation, as most businesses do not cooperate with other firms or with universities. Moreover, there seems to be ‘no clear evidence of a digitalisation trend in the region’. Although most companies have secure and reliable access to the Internet, they use it mostly for communication and advertising purposes, and less for online sales. Interestingly, Internet security is not a frequent issue for businesses in the region, while Kosovo* and Serbia appear to be the safest in terms of Internet security.

The leaders attending the Summit of the South East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) adopted a declaration highlighting the most important priorities for regional cooperation. Among them, specific emphasis was given to economic growth based on modern technologies and digitalisation. The Declaration mentions as an urgent need to broaden the connectivity within the region and with the European Union – both from a digital infrastructural perspective as well as a wider one: business, cultural etc. Enhanced connectivity is seen as an important step towards increasing the region’s competitiveness in the global market and ensuring the well-being of citizens. Overall, widening regional cooperation in the digital sector is highlighted as an important priority for transforming economies and strengthening trans-boundary ties. The Summit meeting of SEECP was organised under the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, on 8–9 July 2019.

The Strategy and Work Programme 2020–2022 of the RCC, endorsed at the RCC Annual Meeting on 8 July 2019 in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, aims to enhance socio-economic, digital and human connectivity within South-East Europe. One of the objectives outlined in the strategy is related to better digitally connected people and businesses, to be achieved through enhanced digital integration and the implementation of the Digital Agenda for Western Balkans. Several activities are outlined to support an accelerated digital transformation in the Western Balkans. The first set of activities is related to reducing roaming charges and supporting broadband development. Strengthening digital skills and competences is another priority, followed by the improvement of e-services delivery and interoperability.  Maintaining a high-level policy dialogue on digital transformation and enhancing regional cooperation is seen as an important element. Last, but not least, several actions are outlined to help improve cybersecurity in the region; examples include coordination among Computer Security Incident Response Teams, capacity building programmes, and regional cooperation in developing measures against cyber threats.

In July 2019, the Minister of Information Society and Administration of North Macedonia, Mr Damjan Manchevski and the Director of the Serbian Government’s Office for IT and e-government, Mr Mihailo Jovanović signed a Memorandum on cooperation regarding the digital transformation of public administration. The agreement outlines activities which will further improve bilateral cooperation on digitalisation between the signatories. In August, Mancevski and his Serbian omologue Mr Rasim Ljajić, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications signed an agreement on mutual recognition of qualified trusted services, including electronic signatures, electronic seals and timestamps. The agreement is expected to facilitate e-commerce transactions between the two countries and allow individuals and businesses to complete proceedings before state authorities of the other country via electronic means.

Serbian authorities started the construction of the second State Data Centre (SDC) in Kragujevac on 3 July 2019. The new SDC is expected to have a capacity of 1180 rack cabinets on 11000 m2. The investment is estimated to cost 30 million EUR and it should be finalised in a year. ‘This infrastructure project of national importance will ensure a systematic and faster construction of e-government information systems, a more efficient connection of different databases and the development of different e-government services for citizens, the economy and the state’, said the director of the Government’s Office for IT and e-government, Mr Mihailo Jovanović.

The ministers of Innovation and Technological Development of Serbia and Hungary, Mr Nenad Popović and Mr László Palkovics have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in the area of innovation. The MoU is expected to enable closer cooperation of Serbian and Hungarian researchers, academics, and startup companies. The ministers also expressed the will to cooperate in the field of technology development in the future.

Economic

On 22 July 2019, the National Assembly of Serbia passed the Law on trade and the Law amending the Law on electronic commerce, which are expected to modernise the regulatory framework in the field of e-commerce and adapt it to EU legislation. The adopted laws define for the first time concepts such as smart contract, blockchain, dropshipping, web store etc. The State Secretary in the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunication, Ms Tatjana Matić remarked that the new laws ’would eliminate inaccuracies and ambiguities from interpretations of legal provisions and introduce a mechanism for removing inappropriate content on the Internet, which should all contribute to the overall development of the digital economy and the information society’.

The ICT ministers of Azerbaijan, Iran, and Russia and the head of Turkish Information and Communications Technology Authority have signed a cooperation agreement in the digital economy field aimed, inter alia, at the creation of a single digital market among the signatory countries. As a first step, the parties have agreed to establish a joint centre for supporting innovation and creativity and to conduct eight exhibitions of digital technologies – two in each country – to expand cooperation between the innovative startups and ICT companies. The initiative is expected to help advance the digital economy in the region.

Uber launched in Bucharest, Romania the biggest support centre in Central and Eastern Europe, aiming to provide assistance to drivers and delivery persons working with the company. Following the adoption of the ride-hailing services ordinance by the Romanian Government, on  25 June 2019, the company announced the opening of a centre that could assist drivers and offer educational support for those interested in complying with the existing legislation. An estimate of 2 500 drivers and delivery persons could be assisted each week by the personnel of the centre – which the company describes as a potential ‘accelerator for conformity’.

Privacy and data protection

The Romanian National Supervisory Authority for Personal Data Processing (ANSPDCP) has announced four cases of Romanian entities fined for non-compliance with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The first and biggest fine was announced on 2 July 2019, when Unicredit Bank S.A. received a 130 000 EUR fine for revealing the Personal Identification Number and address of clients to the beneficiaries of online payment transactions from accounts opened at the Unicredit Bank. Data for 337 042 people were directly exposed, during 25 May 2018 and 10 December 2018.

In July and August 2019, three other smaller fines were imposed as it follows: World Trade Center Bucharest received a 15 000 EUR fine for a data security breach (data of 46 clients hosted at the Center’s hotel was exposed online after an unauthorised photo-copy was taken). Legal Company & Tax Hub SRL received a 3 000 EUR fine for inadequate technical and organisational security measures in protecting data (transactions received by the website avocatoo.ro were published without authorisation: name, surname, address, email, phone, job, details of transactions). UTTIS Industries SRL received a 2 500 EUR fine for not providing proof of required information about the processing of personal data/images through the video surveillance system (which they have been operating since 2016) and for disclosing the Personal Identification Number of personnel to third parties (without proving the legality of the procedure that would allow them to disclose such information).

The National Assembly of Serbia has appointed Mr Milan Marinović as the new Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection. Mr Marinović, the former Belgrade Misdemeanor Court President, stressed that he ‘will not tolerate pressure from anyone and added that he did not agree to the post to implement anyone’s political will’. Civil society organisations pointed out that there were irregularities in the selection process of the Commissioner. Earlier in July, the Parliamentary Committee for Culture and Information interviewed all three candidates for this position and decided to support the nomination of Mr Milan Marinović, which was backed by the ruling party. Besides Mr Marinović, candidates were Mr Bojan Milosavljević, a lawyer, and Ms Nevena Ružić, the current Assistant Secretary-General in the Commissioner’s Office. The mandate of the previous Commissioner Mr Rodoljub Šabić expired in December last year and since then civil society has been calling on the Parliament to name a new Commissioner.

Even though the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection, Mr Milan Marinović asked the Speaker of the Serbian Parliament, Ms Maja Gojković for a year-long postponement, the Law on personal data protection came into force on 22 August 2019. The Commissioner said that ‘the premature enforcement will quickly show the flaws of the law’. He added that many subjects affected by the law are not prepared for the anticipated changes. The law adopted in November last year is a translation of the EU General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Law Enforcement Directive combined. According to the law, every company or institution processing personal data of Serbian citizens should have a Data Protection Officer competent to control the processing and to cooperate with the Commissioner. Prescribed penalties for non-compliance go from 50 000 to 2 million RSD. The Commissioner’s Office and civil society organisations have warned that the law was not adapted to Serbian legal system and that many of stipulated solutions would not be applicable. According to a study conducted by the European Commission, the law is incomplete and ‘difficult to read’ and there is a need ‘to consider amending it’.

The Romanian government has adopted a government ordinance which, among other provisions, requires the registration of all individuals who acquire prepaid cards for electronic communications services. According to the ordinance, mobile electronic communications services paid in advance can be provided to an end-user only after the provider collects the user’s identification data. The collected data can only be made available to the operator of the national system for emergency calls and is to be used by the operator in line with applicable legislation. The new provisions are set to enter into force on 1 January 2020. Existing prepaid card users will be required to register with their electronic communications providers by 1 September 2020. After this date, the provision of prepaid mobile electronic communication services to users who have not provided their identification data will be forbidden. 

This is not the first time when Romanian authorities attempt to introduce a legal obligation regarding the registration of users of prepaid electronic communications services. In 2014, a law that introduced this obligation was declared unconstitutional by the Romanian Constitutional Court, which noted that personal data retention represents a limitation of the right to privacy and data protection. 

Civil society groups have criticised the new ordinance and required the government to respect previous decisions of the Constitutional Court on issues related to limitations of privacy rights. They have also noted that the authorities should have conducted an impact assessment to evaluate the potential impact of the legislation on privacy and data protection rights. The government has insisted that the legislation is needed to improve the provision of emergency services, as it would contribute to improving the localisation of callers, while also enabling authorities to determine the identity of those who make abusive emergency calls.

The European Commission has announced a decision to refer Greece to the Court of Justice of the European Union, for failing to incorporate the Data Protection Law Enforcement Directive into the national law. The deadline for EU member states to transpose the directive into national law was on  6 May 2018. Currently, Greece faces the risk of financial sanctions for every day that the directive is not a part of Greek law. Homo Digitalis, a Greek civil society organisation advocating for digital rights, filed an official complaint with the European Commission on 30 May 2019, urging for immediate actions and noting that the country’s failure to transpose the directive means that Greek citizens ‘do not enjoy a high level of protection of their personal data in processing activities undertaken by law enforcement agencies’.

Content policy & Freedom of expression

At the request of Turkey’s gendarmerie (which is under the Ministry of Internal Affairs), Ankara’s Third Criminal Court issued a ruling imposing the blocking of access to 136 Internet resources, including news websites and Twitter and Facebook accounts. The court based its ruling on article 8/A of the country’s Internet Law concerning the ‘protection of the right to life and security of people and property, national security and public order, prevention of crimes, or protection of general health’. Bianet, a news outlet which focuses on human rights issues, was initially on the block list, but it was removed a day later, after the gendarmerie informed the court that the website had been included in the list by mistake. Amnesty International and Media Freedom Representative of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe have raised concerns regarding the blocks and their implications on media freedom and freedom of expression.

The Albanian government has adopted a controversial set of legislative proposals introducing amendments to the Law on audiovisual media and the Law on electronic communications, which are set to introduce new regulations for online media outlets. The proposed measures – which are subject to approval by the parliament – require online media outlets to register with the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA). A Complaints Council within AMA would be able to require outlets to remove content deemed as defamatory or in breach of privacy, publish an apology or insert a pop-up notice. If the outlets do not comply with the decisions of the Council, they could face fines of up to 8 200 EUR. Moreover, the Telecommunications and Postal Authority would have the power to insert pop-ups on websites found in breach of the law; failure to comply would lead to fines of up to 820 000 EUR. The outlets would be able to have their cases heard in court only after paying the fines. 

Several Albanian and international civil society and media organisations have asked the government to withdraw the bills, concerned about the potential negative impact on freedom of expression online and freedom of the media. Mr Harlem Desir, Representative on Freedom of the Media of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe also commented on the proposed legislative package, noting that improvements have been made compared to previous drafts, while also pointing out to several remaining issues that need to be addressed. Authorities argue that the bills are necessary to address problems such as online defamation and fake news, and that the legal texts now include changes that reflect recommendations made before.

The government of North Macedonia has presented a draft action plan against disinformation, containing a set of security and pro-active measures aimed to ‘enhance the national security and safety of citizens, while defending and advancing democracy’. Some of the proposed security measures include new security protocols for digital communication within the public administration, a reinforcement of the internal IT infrastructure within central administration to prevent external cyber-attacks, and enhanced internal security protocols for communication within the public administration and with external entities. Among the proactive measures proposed, the government envisions the creation of a task force to analyse and monitor the spread of disinformation and misinformation and coordinate the fight against these phenomena. The task force is also expected to cooperate with social media platforms. Other measures include the elaboration of a national strategy for media literacy, cooperation between public authorities and organisations involved in fact-checking activities, and the creation of a register to expose disinformation and publish lists of sources that spread false information. According to the government, the draft plan will be subject to further consultation with public institutions, media, and civil society, as well as ‘strategic partners’ of North Macedonia.

According to a new regulation which came into force on 1 August 2019, the Turkish Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) has officially been given the authority to license and monitor all online content providers. The regulation, adopted by the Parliament in March last year, applies to all streaming services and online news sites which broadcast in Turkey, regardless of whether the companies are located in the country. The measures do not apply to content broadcasted online by individual persons. Moreover, foreign companies that want to provide Internet broadcasting services in Turkey are required to establish a legal presence in the country and obtain a license from RTÜK.  Content providers are also obliged to provide data about their users if the authorities make such a request. Turkish officials claim that this law is necessary for ‘the protection of national security and moral inside the country’, but also for ensuring compliance with EU regulations. On the other side, critics are concerned that law is too vague and could lead to censorship and further deterioration of freedom of expression online in Turkey.

Opportunities

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

Upcoming deadlines

Forset is calling journalists, communications specialists and civic activists from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan who have experience in working with data to apply for the Data Communication Fellowship. The year-long programme consists of a three-week Tbilisi-based training followed by an online mentorship programme, which is expected to help fellows to advance their skills in data collection, data analysis, data storytelling, information design etc. The training in Tbilisi will be conducted in two cycles for two groups of fellows: 28 October – 17 November and 13 November – 5 December 2019. The programme offers six partially and six fully-funded fellowships. The deadline for applications is 8 September 2019.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has launched a call for nominations for the 2019 edition of the UNESCO King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa Prize for the use of ICT in education. This year, the Prize will be awarded to artificial intelligence-powered solutions and applications of neuroscience in AI aiming to improve learning outcomes, to empower teachers, and to enhance the delivery of education services, while advocating for inclusive and equitable use of these technologies in education. Governments of the UNESCO Member States or civil society organisations in official partnership with UNESCO are the only ones eligible to make nominations. Individuals, institutions or civil society organisations with an established ongoing project relevant to the theme of the award are encouraged to get in touch with the nominators ahead of the application process. Self-nomination will not be accepted. Each of the two winners will receive a reward of 25 000 USD and a diploma during a ceremony in Paris. The deadline for nominations is 31 October 2019.

Upcoming events

2–6 September 2019 Paphos, Cyprus

5–6 September 2019 Belgrade, Serbia

6 September 2019 Minsk, Belarus

6–7 September 2019 Yerevan, Armenia

6–9 September 2019 Odessa, Ukraine

7 September 2019 Kyiv, Ukraine

11–13 September 2019 Yerevan, Armenia

12–14 September 2019 Yerevan, Armenia

13–15 September 2019 Novi Sad, Serbia

14 September 2019 Sofia, Bulgaria

14 September 2019 Kharkiv, Ukraine

16–17 September 2019 Paphos, Cyprus

16–19 September 2019 Kyiv, Ukraine

18 September 2019 Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

20 September 2019 Kyiv, Ukraine

19–22 September 2019 Rovinj, Croatia

21–22 September Kyiv, Ukraine

23 September 2019 Kyiv, Ukraine

23–24 September 2019 Istanbul, Turkey

24–25 September 2019 Kyiv, Ukraine

24–25 September 2019 Split, Croatia

25 September 2019 Sofia, Bulgaria

25–26 September 2019 Belgrade, Serbia

26 September 2019 Bucharest, Romania

26 September 2019 Kyiv, Ukraine

26–27 September 2019 Bucharest, Romania

26–28 September 2019 Sofia, Bulgaria

27 September 2019 Istanbul, Turkey

27–29 September 2019 Lviv, Ukraine

28 September 2019 Labin, Croatia

28–29 September 2019 Belgrade, Serbia

29 September – 5 October 2019 Budva, Montenegro

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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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