OREANDA-NEWS.  June 25, 2012. Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said although the economic situation in the Baltic Sea countries is among the best in the European Union ,economic growth in the region could be boosted by cross-border, environmentally sustainable infrastructures and a unified energy and digital market.

“The long-term economic prosperity of our region depends on connecting our respective countries,” said the Estonian prime minister at the Baltic Development Forum summit. He cited the Rail Baltic project as an example: it would expand markets for the business community, create jobs and contribute to the region’s economic growth.

Ansip said the Baltic Sea states had a good opportunity to be advocate for cross-border e-services in the European Union. “We are all successful users of e-solutions within our respective countries, but now we should take the next step,” added Ansip. He said it was important to deal with developing a functioning single digital market.

“There are already a few good examples,” said Ansip. For instance, Finnish and Latvian citizens can access Estonian e-services using their ID card, but these are still the exception rather than the rule. Ansip proposed that a high-level working group be set up to start developing a digital strategy for the region, with the involvement of the private sector and representatives from all of the Baltic Sea states.

In the afternoon, Ansip met a group of advisers to the development forum on topics of digital market developments, consisting representatives from chambers of commerce of the Baltic Sea states and a number of regional directors of the world’s leading ICT companies (including Google, Microsoft, IBM, Ericsson and Sitella). Estonia is represented in the group by Ericsson Estonia director Seth Lackman and Linnar Viik.

The members of the advisory group recommended continuing with four priority areas. The experts called the area of e-procurements the first such priority. If 25 percent of procurements in the region took place in a cross-border, electronic fashion, the countries would reap estimated gains of 3.85 billion euros (0.1% of GDP).

A second area cited was harmonization of rules. European Union estimates indicate the economic benefit for the region’s countries would be 41 billion euros (1.1% of GDP). As a third priority, the experts recommended development of roaming services, aimed at ending distinctions in the region’s countries between so-called national rates and roaming rates charged by communications operators. A fourth potential area is online intermediaries, which covers both communications service and content and service providers. Their total contribution to the economy in a market without borders would be an estimated 84 billion euros (2.3% of GDP).

Ansip said the progress toward a digital market in the Baltic Sea states should support and complement similar steps at the level of the entire European Union. Besides the four areas proposed by the advisory group, Estonia considers it important to continue progress on the topic of digital identity and authentication services (e.g. ID card). By harmonizing rules in this field, intercompatibility of national solutions and a single standard would lay the essential foundation for providing and consuming services across borders electronically.