From borders to bytes: how the EU’s motto is bridging divides with digital technologies

In varietate concordia. Once adopted by Ernesto Teodoro Moneta, an Italian journalist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, these Latin words became the motto of the European Union. Even though it may not be so well known as an EU symbol, 'United in diversity' illustrates well Europe's pluralistic nature.

There is something exciting about exploring the remotest parts of the world. Even so, I must admit, Europe hides so many gems, that one life isn't enough to discover them all. Moreover, thanks to the EU single market and Schengen Area, as well as technological developments, crossing borders has become almost seamless.

As we all know, Europe comprises about fifty separate, sovereign countries (with 27 part of the EU), each with its unique history, culture, nature, and ethnic make-up. Let's start with a bit of geography – Europe has a beautiful contrast between the mountains of Southern Europe and a vast plain in the north-east, a desert climate in southern Spain and polar nights in Lapland. Even millions of kilometres apart, distance is no barrier to cooperation if the Internet is available. Although connectivity varies between EU members, especially in rural areas, Europe aims to be the most connected continent by 2030. This will ensure high-speed internet coverage by 2025 and gigabit connectivity by 2003 [1].

Not only has the increased internet usage fostered people’s connectedness. The ethnic diversity within European countries has increased significantly during the last century. As a result, hundreds of languages – official, regional and minority - are spoken in the EU, contributing to cultural diversity. And again, multilingualism could create barriers to understanding each other, but through language technologies it is becoming easier to interact, no matter what language is being used. Even so, it is too early to speak about full digital language equality in Europe. According to the META-NET study conducted in 2012 [2], at least 21 European languages are unlikely to survive in the digital age. Even the revolution in digital language services in the last decade has not saved the situation. The technological support of the five most spoken EU languages is still inequitable compared to the rest [3], requiring more attention in national AI strategies.

Sevim Aktas, a policy officer at the European Commission, finds the EU’s motto ‘United in Diversity‘ more than just a slogan – “It’s a guiding principle that is being put into action in the digital world. In a world where digital technologies are increasingly shaping our lives, the EU is committed to ensuring that everyone, regardless of their background or location, has access to the digital tools and resources they need to succeed.” Sevim, in my opinion, shows a great example of diversity herself – a multidisciplinary engineer in public policy, making EU politics more accessible via her Instagram account. She was born in Netherlands, raised in Denmark, and now works in Belgium. According to Sevim, “by promoting digital inclusion and bridging the digital divide, the EU is creating a more cohesive and collaborative society that values diversity and equal opportunities for all. This effort reflects the EU’s commitment to a more equitable and united society that values diversity and inclusivity.”

Finally, I would like to touch upon gender diversity. While women's rights are challenged in different parts of the world, Europe has made considerable progress to eliminate inequalities. Nine of the 10 most favourable OECD countries for working women are in Europe [4]. Some of Europe’s largest and most prominent countries and cities are led by women (e.g. Sanna Marin – the youngest prime minister ever, Ada Colau – the first woman to hold the post of Mayor of Barcelona, not forgetting Ursula von der Leyen). However, there are still many reasons to care about diversity in the European economy, especially if we look at the ICT sector. An impetus for improving gender equality can be found in the digital transition. It’s a win-win situation – by 2030, Europe will need more than 20 million ICT experts [5], but increasing gender equality could increase the EU employment growth rate from 2.1% to 3.5% by 2050 [6].

As Europe becomes more diverse, having more people from different backgrounds build the digital world can help us better prepare for today's and tomorrow's challenges. Economic advancement is only possible if we strive for a globalized, technologically advanced and diverse world. The protection of European diversity is essential for a prosperous future.


[1] European Commission (2020). Shaping Europe's digital future.
[2] META-NET (2013). At least 21 European languages in danger of digital extinction.
[3] Giagkou, M. (2022). Digital Language Equality in Europe: How are our languages doing?
[4] PwC (2023). Women in Work 2023.
[5] European Commission (2021). Shaping Europe's digital future: The Digital Decade.
[6] European Institute for Gender Equality (2017). Economic benefits of gender equality in the European Union