Issue no. 29 of the SEEsummary, published on 1 July 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 June 2019. Also included: a list of upcoming events (July and August 2019) and an overview of upcoming capacity development opportunities for SEE+ stakeholders. Contributors to this issue: Maja Ćalović, Andrijana Gavrilović, Katarine Gevorgyan, Stelios Kavvadias, Loreta Kroj, Olga Kyryliuk, Liljana Pecova Ilieska, Dušan Stojičević, Sorina Teleanu. Design by Charalampos Kyritsis.
Telecommunications infrastructure | Domain Name System | Cybersecurity | Cybercrime | Development-other | E-commerce | Economic – other issues | Multilingualism | Content policy & Freedom of expression
Romanian authorities go ahead with 5G plans, while operators launch new 5G services
The Romanian Government formally approved the 5G Strategy for Romania, seven months after the strategy was launched for public consultation by the National Authority for Management and Regulation in Communications (ANCOM). The strategy outlines a plan of action regarding the implementation and launch of 5G services, with the overall goal of ensuring 5G coverage of all urban centres and terrestrial transport routes by 2025. The Ministry of Communications and Information Society estimates that the implementation of the 5G Strategy will lead to the creation of over 250 000 jobs and will support the overall development of the digital economy. In addition, ANCOM set the conditions and procedure for awarding spectrum usage rights in the frequency bands envisioned for the implementation of the 5G technology (700 MHz, 800 MHz, 1500 MHz, 2600 MHz and 3400–3800 MHz). According to the timeline approved by the regulator, the procedure for awarding usage rights for the 5G dedicate spectrum is to be completed by 31 October 2019. The 5G licenses will be awarded to the winners in December 2019 and they will be able to use a part of the frequency spectrum from January 2020. However, ANCOM executives warned that this timeline will not be met unless the government repeals all provisions applicable to the telecom industry contained in a controversial government ordinance (OUG 114), and issues a decision setting the starting prices for the auction. The said provisions, ANCOM argues, would lead to ‘unrealistic’ prices of billions of euro for some frequency bands.
Amid these developments, Vodafone Romania announced the expansion of its 5G network to now cover the cities of Cluj-Napoca and Mamaia (in addition to Bucharest), as well as the launch of its first 5G subscriptions. Digi | RCS & RDS, another major telecom player in Romania, also launched a 5G commercial service this month, to be provided through the company’s first 5G stations, first in Bucharest, and then in the cities of Constanța, Mamaia, Oradea, Cluj-Napoca and Iași.
Serbia plans 5G auction for 2020
Serbia is planning a 5G spectrum auction in 2020, according to the country’s Regulatory Agency for Electronic Communications and Postal Services (RATEL). RATEL, together will other state institutions, will work on putting in place the auction procedure for next year. ‘The implementation of the 5G technology for its own sake doesn’t make much sense, as citizens are already provided with a good service. If the economy is ready to accept this transformation, in line with the government’s efforts toward digitisation, the sooner this is done, the more the 5G technology will make sense’, said Mr Vladica Tintor, Director of RATEL. Serbia’s mobile operators have been preparing for the investment in the new technology and one of them, Telenor, has already rolled-out a 5G station in the Science-Technology Park Belgrade. For this, Telenor is using a temporary license from RATEL and is partnering with Huawei and the Faculty of Electrical Engineering in Belgrade, whose students will start using the 5G test environment starting in September.
Montenegro and Albania enhance cooperation on spectrum management
Montenegro’s Agency for Electronic Communications and Postal Services (EKIP) and Albania’s Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to enhance cooperation in harmonising the radio frequency spectrum management. The MoU focuses on the 700MHz band, which is one of the frequency bands earmarked for the deployment of 5G mobile networks across Europe. EKIP and AMA have also expressed willingness to work together towards the transition of the Albanian digital television frequencies from the 470MHz–694MHz band, enabling the release of the 700MHz band for mobile communications networks.
Romanian and Serbian regulatory authorities sign Memorandum of understanding
The electronic communications regulatory authorities in Romania (ANCOM) and Serbia (RATEL) signed a Memorandum of Understanding in the field of electronic communications and postal services between their respective countries. The document recognizes the importance of electronic communications and postal services in the development of social and economic welfare of Romania and Serbia, and is aimed at improvement of cooperation and activities related to the exchange of information, experience and documents in the area of electronic communications and postal regulation development in two countries.
EU announces eight sites to host world-class supercomputers, Sofia and Maribor among them
Eight European cities have been chosen as sites for supercomputing centres that will host the first European supercomputers, and two South Eastern European cities are among them. Sofia (Bulgaria), Ostrava (Czechia), Kajaani (Finland), Bologna (Italy), Bissen (Luxembourg), Minho (Portugal), Maribor (Slovenia), and Barcelona (Spain) will support Europe’s researchers, industry and businesses in developing new applications in personalised medicine, drug and material design, bio-engineering, weather forecasting, and climate change as part of the European High-Performance Computing Joint Undertaking, an EU initiative aiming to develop a pan-European supercomputing infrastructure. In total, 19 of the 28 countries participating in the Joint Undertaking will be part of the consortia operating the centres.
.ευ to be launched in November 2019
The registry operator for .eu, EURid, announced that .ευ – the Greek equivalent of .eu – is now closer to reality, after the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) completed the evaluation process for the string. EurID, which is currently working on the string delegation process, expects to launch .ευ on 14 November 2019. 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).
North Macedonian authorities reiterate plans for regional cybersecurity centre
Speaking at a cybersecurity conference held on 5–6 June 2019 in Ohrid, North Macedonia, Mr Damjan Mancevki, Minister of Information Society and Administration, reiterated the country’s plans to open a regional centre for training and research on cybersecurity in Skopje. According to Mancevki, a proposal for establishing the centre has already been prepared and work in now underway on assessing the necessary organisational and financial resources. The centre is to be dedicated to the Western Balkans area and is expected to include a training centre for public administration officers and owners of critical infrastructures, as well as a research component to facilitate cooperation among researchers and academia. The overall aim of the initiative, the minister pointed out, is to strengthen national and regional cyber-capabilities and encourage innovation in the development of cybersecurity technologies.
CERT-RO publishes cyber-threat report for 2018
The Romanian National Computer Security Incident Response Team (CERT-RO) published a report outlining the evolution of cyber-threats targeting Romanian users in 2018. According to the report, in 2018, CERT-RO identified cyber-attacks originating from over 190 countries or territories from all continents, marking a significant increase from the 60 countries or territories identified as sources of cyber-attacks in 2017. Most cyber-threats in 2018 were caused by vulnerable systems (80,75%), followed by botnes (11,91%), compromised systems (7,02%), and other threats (malware, phishing, fast-flux and spam). The majority of these cyber-threats originated from Romania, followed by Bulgaria, USA, Hungary, Seychelles, and other countries. Cryptojacking attacks saw a significant increase last year, phishing attacks accounted for the most widespread cyber-incidents, and the most affected systems were online/cloud services. Private organisations were the most frequent targets of cyber-attacks (41,47%). Cyber-attacks against public sector entities originated from a large number of countries, the top 10 sources being identified in Ukraine, USA, China, Russia, UK, Bulgaria, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, and Seychelles.
Ransomware attacks target public health institutions in Romania
CERT-RO issued a public alert indicating it had identified a significant rise in ransomware cyber-attacks targeting Romania. Attackers have focused their attention especially on public health institutions (in addition to individual end-users), with the number of affected entities continuously growing. CERT-RO, together with Cyberint and Bitdefender, revealed that the threats behind these ransomware attacks are the Maoloa and Phobos malware. Affected users were advised not to pay the requested ransomware, but to notify relevant law enforcement authorities. As a precautionary measure, users were also advised to create copies of their data, as back-ups in case their devices are compromised.
Low ranking for SEE+ countries in EU’s DESI 2019
The European Commission released the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) 2019, an index that reveals the competitiveness and performance in the digital field of the EU member states for the past year. The six EU member states of South Eastern Europe scored below the EU average in the DESI composite index (which represents the weighted average of the five main DESI dimensions – connectivity, human capital, use of Internet, integration of digital technology, and digital public services): Slovenia – 16th place, Croatia – 20th, Cyprus – 22nd, Greece – 26th, Romania – 27th, and Bulgaria – 28th. Below are some of the key takeaways for the SEE countries from the index. Despite a good performance in connectivity (especially regarding the availability of ultrafast and mobile broadband networks), Bulgaria ranks 28th among EU countries when it comes to the integration of digital technologies in business practices, and 27% of Bulgarians have never gone online (EU average is 11%). Croatia’s overall score for connectivity is 50.1 (EU average is 59.3), placing the country at the bottom of the ranking; however, the country is making progress on the human capital dimension, now ranking 13th among all EU countries. Cyprus is above the EU average in broadband coverage, but has half of its population lacking basic digital skills. Greece is making progress in the integration of digital technology in the economy, as well as in the digitalisation of the public services, but its overall scores are still well below the EU average. For example, less than 1% of Greek households have access to Ultrafast broadband Internet (EU average is 60%). Romania has a relatively good ranking regarding female ICT specialists (16th place), but it has the lowest performance among member states regarding the digitalisation of public services, and fewer than a third of Romanians have basic digital skills. Slovenia’s fast broadband coverage increased to 86% (above the EU average), but the country did not register improvements in the human capital dimension in recent years.
Serbia amends e-commerce legislation
The Government of Serbia adopted the Draft Law on Amendments to the Law on Electronic Commerce, to be submitted for approval to the country’s parliament. The draft law further aligns the law of Serbia with the European Union law, improving legal security, regulating business more closely and regulating legal obligations of information society service providers. The adopted changes are expected to bring progress to the Serbian economy as well as further growth and development of the information society market.
Romania introduces regulation for ride-hailing services
The Romanian government approved an ordinance regulating the provision of ride-hailing services, following controversies over the status of these services. According to the ordinance, the operators of digital ride-hailing platforms have to be authorised by the Ministry of Communications and Information Society and pay an annual tax of 50 000 LEI (around 10 000 EUR). All drivers providing ride-hailing services through an authorised platform also need to hold an authorisation for the provision of such services, issued by the Romanian Road Authority. Moreover, all cars involved in the provisions of ride-hailing services have to be authorised by the Romanian Road Authority, and the income resulting from the provision of these services is subject to taxes, according to existing Romanian legislation. The decision was welcomed by providers of ride-hailing services, which see it as an important step in the liberalisation of the transportation services market. Uber declared that it hopes to be able to work with public authorities and other providers of transportation services to reduce traffic problems in Romanian cities. However, even before the ordinance was approved, taxi drivers expressed their disagreement with the ordinance, arguing that it facilitates unloyal competition on the market.
More than half of Romanians believe their jobs will be completely replaced by robots
A survey conducted by Romania-based BestJobs platform shows that more than half of Romanians believe that their jobs will be replaced by robots and automation sooner or later. Thus, 12% of the Romanians believe that robotics and automation will affect their jobs in the next 5 years, 14.6% think that this might happen within 5–10 years. At the same time, 11.3% of the surveyed citizens are of the view that their jobs might be automated only in 10–15 years, while 14% believe it will take at least 20 years for this to happen. Some jobs are considered not to be threatened by technological progress, and these include artists, priests, psychologists, doctors, politicians, and journalists. There are also several jobs that Romanians would prefer to see replaced by robots, such as public servants, cashier, cleaning staff, seller, and politician.
Albanian-Serbian online dictionary in the pipeline
The International Organization for Migration intends to develop an Albanian-Serbian online dictionary to facilitate communication between the two major ethnic communities in Kosovo*. The online dictionary will include 20 000 translated words and is expected to be launched by September 2019. Although Albanian and Serbian are Kosovo’s* two official languages, it is not often that the two communities do not learn each other’s, which makes communication difficult. In this context, Ms Slavisa Mladenovic, Kosovo’s* Languages Commissioner, expressed her belief that the online dictionary would help improve the relations between the two communities and facilitate work within the public administration.
Western Balkans: Quality journalism insufficiently promoted on social networks
Research involving more than 120 journalists and editors from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia has shown that journalists in the region are not active enough in promoting their own work through social media. The Getting quality journalism closer to audiences on social networks: Journalists as social media influencers report, compiled by two researchers from Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, has shown that lack of digital competencies, incongruence of cultures, lack of media freedom, and affordability of social networks are the main reasons for this state of things and that journalists need to be personally more involved in promoting their own work through social media channels.
Report looks at proposed online media regulation in Albania
In late June 2019, several non-governmental organisations undertook a mission to Albania to assess challenges to freedom of expression and press freedom in the country. The involved organisations – European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, ARTICLE 19, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the European Federation of Journalists, the International Press Institute, Reporters Without Borders and the South East Europe Media Organisation – published a preliminary report on their findings, which also covers aspects related to online media. The report assesses the implications of proposed amendments to the country’s media legislation (put forward by the Albanian government in December 2018) on freedom of expression and press freedom. The proposals, which intend to regulate Albanian and foreign online media outlets, are considered not to be in line with international human rights standards. More specifically, the seven organisations express concerns regarding the proposed mandatory registration requirements for online media and the creation of a new administrative body empowered to fine and shut down domestic online media and block access to foreign online media without a court order. These measures are seen as ‘an attempt to introduce state regulation of online media, which is contrary to international best practices on self-regulation and would have a detrimental impact on freedom of expression and information and press freedom in Albania’. These concerns were shared with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, who noted that the proposed amendments to the media legislation are being reviewed, to take into account the issues raised.
SEE+ countries featured in the Freedom and the media report
In its newly released report Freedom and the media, Freedom House concluded that global press freedom is in peril. The report covers developments in 195 countries and 14 territories from 1 January to 31 December 2018. The countries are ranked from 0 (least free) to 4 (most free) for the press freedom indicator, with the scores being based on factual examples of the media freedom situation at the national level. The only country in the SEE+ region that got the highest score (4) is Cyprus, followed by Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia with a score of 3. Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo*, North Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, and Ukraine received a 2 score. The lowest scores were granted to Turkey (1) and Azerbaijan, Belarus, and Russia (0). In the report, Serbia is singled out for silencing critical journalism and monopolising media ownership, while Belarus is criticised for amendments to its media law that expanded the definition of traditional media and resulted in blocking of several independent news sites. Romania is referred to as a country where the media market suffers from systemic problems and has to be watched closely to prevent illiberal co-optation. Russia is condemned for blocking the Telegram messaging service, upon the company’s refusal to hand over its encryption keys to security officials. On the positive side, Armenia is highlighted among countries that gave rise to innovative social media alternatives to state-controlled media. For Belarus and Armenia, the report points out to live-streaming services that have been used to challenge the government’s position on the size or goal of anti-government protests, and to document security forces’ response.
Fellowships, scholarships, events and other engagement opportunities for SEE+ stakeholders
European Youth Award 2019
The European Youth Award (EYA) initiative is accepting applications for its 2019 EYA contest, inviting young people, entrepreneurs and start-ups from all over Europe to propose creative digital projects that have an impact on society. The projects could focus on developing websites, apps, games, Internet of things, other smart devices or digital installations, and they have to fit within one of the following categories: fostering health, smart learning, connecting cultures, planet-friendly, active citizenship, sustainable economics, managing life, open innovation and future Europe. Applications can be submitted until 15 July 2019 and the winners will be invited to the EYA Festival taking place on 27–30 November 2019, in Graz, Austria.
2019 UiPath Automation Awards | CEE Edition
UiPath, one of the world’s leading software automation companies, launched an awards competition for automation start-ups and scale-ups based in Central and Eastern European countries (Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova, Poland, Romania, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Ukraine and Turkey). Start-ups and scale-ups focusing on business-to-business non-manufacturing software automation can pitch their ideas by 2 September 2019. Semifinalists will present their work at the How to Web conference taking place on 30 October 2019, in Bucharest, Romania. The winners, to be announced in Bucharest, will be awarded a cash prize (50 000 EUR for the start-up category), sales support, mentoring, as well as tech, marketing and sales support.
International Symposium on INnovations in Intelligent SysTems and Applications (INISTA) | 3–5 July 2019 | Sofia, Bulgaria
ICICTE 2019: International Conference on ICT in Education | 4–6 July 2019 | Chania, Greece
Eastern European Computer Vision Conference | 6–7 July 2019 | Odesa, Ukraine
Cyprus Blockchain Summit | 10 July 2019 | Nicosia, Cyprus
International Symposium on Human Aspects of Information Security & Assurance (HAISA 2019) | 15–17 July 2019 | Nicosia, Cyprus
RIPE NCC Member Lunch | 19 July 2019 | Ljubljana, Slovenia
International Conference on Software Quality, Reliability, and Security | 22–26 July 2019 | Sofia, Bulgaria
International Conference on Interactive Collaborative Robotics | 20–25 August 2019 | Istanbul, Turkey
Innovate-Data Conference 2019 | 26–28 August 2019 | Istanbul, Turkey
Web Summer Camp 2019 | 28–30 August 2019 | Rovinj, Croatia
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.
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