Monday

24th Sep 2018

Agenda

Inching towards digital single market THIS WEEK

  • Ansip (l): 'what's the sense of making the most ambitious proposals if you will not get support?' (Photo: European Commission)

The EU institutions will try to take some steps closer to a digital single market, in what one EU source said will be a “really busy week”.

On Monday (28 November), economic affairs and industry ministers will meet in Brussels to discuss, among other things, a proposal by the European Commission to end geo-blocking.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Geo-blocking is restricting access to goods or services online because of someone's geographical location.

A source close to the EU Council, where the ministers will meet, said he expected them to adopt a common position about the commission's proposal.

“We as council need to progress, as is widely expected by consumers,” he said, adding that a common position would send a “positive signal”.

With an increasingly eurosceptic population, EU officials are keen to show they focus on files that deliver benefits to EU citizens and companies.

However, the proposal on the table is only about physical goods offered on websites. It does not cover copyrighted content, like videos or movies.

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), an advisory body of the EU, called the plan “a small step, not a game-changer”.

“It remains to be seen whether this regulation will really alleviate consumer frustrations,” the EESC said in an assessment of the file.

Even the man responsible would have liked the legislation to cover more.

European Commissioner for the digital single market, Andrus Ansip, told journalists on Friday (25 November) that he would support it if the European Parliament extended the scope.

But he had instead proposed a more compact regulation, to increase the chance of it getting through the two institutions whose consent is needed.

“We are able to make the most ambitious proposals in the world, but what's the sense of making the most ambitious proposals if you will not get support from member states or from the European parliament?”

A second file currently in the legislative pipeline, to be voted on in parliament committee on Tuesday, does deal with movies.

The legal affairs committee will vote on a proposal about cross-border portability of online content. This too is more limited than what some digital activists would have wanted.

If adopted, the rules would allow people who have bought access to movies in one EU country, to bring them to another – which is not quite the same as EU citizens being able to buy online content from all over the bloc, like Ansip would have wanted.

The same day the industry committee looks at a file that will help end roaming surcharges, while on Wednesday the parliament's plenary will discuss data protection.

The roaming file is also up for discussion on Friday, during a telecoms ministerial, as is a new EU fund to promote public wifi.

In September, the commission announced Wifi4EU, a €120 million fund which should “support the provision of free local wireless connectivity in the centres of local public life”.

It was announced by commission president Jean-Claude Juncker during his annual State of the European Union speech, although the Luxembourgish politician somewhat exaggerated on its results.

Juncker said, unrealistically, the commission would provide free wifi for “every European village and every city” by 2020.

The commission this week will also announce new plans as part of the Digital Single Market file.

“Currently, online traders have to register for VAT in all the member states to which they sell goods,” said a source from the commission. The commission will propose new rules that will reduce administrative burdens to companies.

Another effort to “deliver” to citizens, is the Energy Union project.

On Wednesday, the commission will announce a package of measures in the energy field. It will contain new rules on renewable energy, energy efficiency, and the electricity market.

All these efforts to show citizens the EU is working for them is the establishment parties' way to prevent populist parties from gaining power.

On Sunday (4 December), two countries will show the EU, to some extent, if they are convinced.

In Italy, citizens will vote in a referendum about constitutional reform. Although the topic is a national matter, many analysts see an EU-related issue: if prime minister Matteo Renzi were to lose the vote, elections could bring the anti-EU Five Star Movement to power.

In Austria, the EU factor is much more salient, with citizens having a clear choice between a pro-EU and anti-EU candidate in the re-do of the presidential election.

Green candidate Alexander Van Der Bellen was proclaimed winner over far right candidate Norbert Hofer in May, but the results were annulled due to procedural anomalies.

Analysis

Juncker's unrealistic promise of free wifi

The commission president said "every European village and every city" will have public internet access in 2020, but the statement was not backed up by any legally binding target.

Italy and visa-free travel on EU agenda This WEEK

Finance ministers will give their first reaction to the Italian referendum, while MEPs and member states try to clinch a deal on visa-free travel for Georgians and Ukrainians.

Focus

States seek softer access to EU wifi fund

Free wifi for all? Not on the current EU Commission proposal, which lacks the funds, MEPs say, and which could come at a price for users' privacy.

Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK

The EU will be watching closely how the political dynamics of Theresa May's Conservative party conference starting next week will influence Brexit negotiations. MEPs might also be forced to release their office expenses.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. Every major city in Europe is getting warmer
  2. No chance of meeting EU renewable goals if infrastructure neglected
  3. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  4. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia
  5. Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit
  6. Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate
  7. UK's post-Brexit plan 'will not work', EU says
  8. Airbnb agrees to clarify pricing for EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  5. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  6. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  9. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  11. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us