Thursday

21st Sep 2017

Focus

Data reform more complex than I thought, says EU commissioner

  • A data centre in Lombardy, Italy. The commission wants to establish a 'free flow of data' across the EU (Photo: Leonardo Rizzi)

The EU's ambition to allow data to freely cross borders could be more difficult to realise than it seemed, the EU commissioner for the digital single market has conceded.

“It seems it is more complicated than I thought,” Andrus Ansip told journalists on Friday.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The commission had said it would come up with an "initiative" to create a free flow of data across the bloc before the end of this year, but Ansip said that would come in 2017.

Last year, the commission published a strategy paper about how to move towards a digital single market in the EU. It said there were too many “unnecessary restrictions regarding the location of data within the EU”.

Currently, there are around 50 different national laws all over the EU with rules about storing data, said Ansip. These often require companies to store data in the country they are doing business.

“In some countries they think that data collected in those countries will be really well protected only when they will be able to keep it inside those beautiful countries,” said Ansip.

As a consequence, it is very difficult for small business to operate all over the EU, Ansip said.

“Big companies, they will be able to create their data centres in all 28 member states,” said the former Estonian prime minister.

For European startups, this is “practically impossible”, he noted.

The message the EU is currently sending to its own companies, Ansip said, is: “Stay at home, or go to the United States.”

If these barriers were removed, and storing data in any EU country allowed, this could reduce costs for storing data by some €7.2 billion in five years, Ansip said.

Free flow

In its 2015 strategy paper, the commission announced it would publish “a European ‘free flow of data’ initiative” in the year 2016.

But Ansip said Friday that this initiative would be pushed back to 2017.

“Most likely we will propose a communication in January and then somewhere in June we will continue with a regulation,” said Ansip, although he immediately added that the months he mentioned were only indicative.

In EU-speak, communications are strategy papers which announce what the commission intends to propose – the 2015 digital single market strategy was itself a communication.

"First communication, then concrete action," said Ansip.

This is an approach the commission has taken several times under the leadership of Jean-Claude Juncker: a non-binding strategy paper first, followed some months later by the actual legislation.

This will allow the commission to test the waters on what it can actually propose that stands a chance of being adopted by the member states and the European Parliament.

“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?” said Ansip

Geo-blocking

One of those less ambitious, more realistic proposals moved forward in the legislative procedure on Monday (28 November).

Ministers adopted a common position on a proposal to ban online shops from discriminating against their customers based on their location.

The proposal on so-called geo-blocking only covered part of what drives some online consumers crazy: not being able to buy something from an EU-based website because of your location.

After the European Parliament has adopted its common position, the two institutions will negotiate on a compromise.

EU unveils '€415bn' digital strategy

Its blueprint foresees €415bn/yr in additional growth. But it's not the first time the EU commission has made big promises on the digital market.

What digital barriers do Europeans still face?

"Mom! I did something illegal!" - as the EU gets set to unveil its new strategy on liberalising the digital single market, what online barriers do Europeans still face?

EU to beef up cybersecurity agency

The Commission's president proposed to set up a European Cybersecurity Agency. The EU already has an agency for Network and Information Security.

Feature

Nine lines that changed history - at least on the internet

Google has removed 800,000 search results across the EU following complaints from citizens, without the public knowing what has been removed, why it was removed or who complained. We revisit the case that rewrote history online.

News in Brief

  1. Le Pen's right-hand man leaves National Front
  2. Spanish PM calls on Catalan leaders to 'stop escalation'
  3. Dutch government to appeal Srebrenica ruling
  4. Verhofstadt: Northern Ireland could stay in single market
  5. Catalan leader decries Spanish government intervention
  6. Hungary set for fresh campaign against public enemy Soros
  7. Iceland's PM leads in polls ahead of October elections
  8. Erdogan demands Iraqi Kurds cancel referendum

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressCommends the German Government for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  2. EU2017EEFour Tax Initiatives to Modernise the EU's Tax System
  3. Dialogue PlatformResponsibility in Practice: Gulen & Islamic Thought
  4. Counter BalanceHuman Rights Concerns Over EIB Loan to the Trans Anatolian Pipeline Project
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina Leads the Global Clean Energy Transition
  6. CES - Silicones EuropeFrom Baking Moulds to Oven Mitts, Silicones Are a Key Ingredient in Kitchens
  7. Martens CentreFor a New Europeanism: How to Put the Motto "Unity in Diversity" Into Practice
  8. Access MBAGet Ahead With an MBA Degree. Top MBA Event in Brussels
  9. Idealist QuarterlyIdealist Quarterly Event: Building Fearless Democracies With Gerald Hensel
  10. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Urges Bigger Global Role for Emerging Economies
  11. EU2017EEAre We Socially Insured in the Future of Work?
  12. European Jewish CongressFrench Authorities to Root Out "Societal Antisemitism" After Jewish Family Assaulted