Wednesday

16th Aug 2017

Focus

Leaked EU digital progress report reveals hurried changes

  • EU commissioner Ansip (l) showing his digital skills to colleague commissioners Vella and Canete (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission revealed some of the last-minute changes it made to its own assessment of its digital single market strategy, by publishing a draft document instead of the final version on Wednesday (10 May).

While EU commissioner Andrus Ansip was presenting the “mid-term review of the digital single market strategy” in the commission's press room in Brussels, the final report was supposed to be made public on the website of the commission, which is the EU's executive body.

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 published, probably accidentally, a word processing document showing changes to a progress report about the digital single market strategy

Instead, the commission's press release linked to a word processor document, which showed a draft version, including changes made by two commission officials.

The document is a progress report of the EU's strategy to remove digital barriers and to stimulate the European digital economy.

The digital single market file is a key priority of president Jean-Claude Juncker's administration, which is halfway through its five-year term. Wednesday's paper summarised what the commission has done.

It has made several legislative proposals that are now in the hands of two other EU institutions, the European Parliament and the Council of EU - the latter of which represents national governments - before they can become law.

The mid-term review is as much taking stock as it is a political tool to put pressure on the other EU institutions, to speed up their legislative work.

"Only the determined commitment of all will allow the EU to make a functional Digital Single Market a reality," the report said.

As with all EU commission documents, it was written by a multitude of civil servants and officials.

Most word processor programmes allow its users to make so-called "track changes", so that recent alterations to the document can be identified.

In this case it was revealed that, on 4 May, a cabinet member of Ansip and a policy coordinator at Jean-Claude Juncker's secretariat-general made substantial last-minute changes.

Some were linguistic, such as asking for the commission's digital proposals to be “rapidly” adopted by member states and the EU parliament, instead of “swiftly”.

Other changes were more substantive.

The final version still stressed that more investments are needed to make sure that EU citizens have good internet connections. But the following sentence was fully removed: “It should also be noted that connectivity by satellite technologies should be promoted, especially in remote areas.”

There were also several changes in the section on tackling hate speech online, and what role online platforms such as Facebook should play.

According to Julia Reda, a German left-wing MEP, the changes point towards endorsement of censorship filters.

In the final text, the commission said it would focus “on the mechanisms and technical solutions for removal of illegal content”. The phrase “technical solutions” had been added just last week.

“Removal of illegal content can only be done in two ways,” Reda, a member of the German Pirate Party, told EUobserver in an e-mail. “Either a person is checking the content, or it is taken down by an automatic filter. 'Technical solutions' therefore clearly refers to filters.”

The text also removed a phrase that said the EU's response to illegal content would be put under a single “framework”, which was already a watering down of an earlier draft dated April, published by Politico.

That earlier draft said the commission would consider whether to “come forward with initiatives in the form of legislative and/or non-legislative instruments” before the end of the year.

The commission did not comment on questions from EUobserver, asking for the reasoning behind the changes.

"The Communication adopted by the College of Commissioners is the one available here," wrote spokeswoman Nathalie Vandystadt in an e-mail that included a link to the press release.

That press release now links to the final version, which can be read here. MEP Reda has published a copy of the leaked draft.

Copyright file moves to pro-digital commissioner

Following a reshuffle, Estonian commissioner Ansip temporarily takes over the file from German Guenther Oettinger, who is seen as more friendly towards copyright holders.

News in Brief

  1. Russian power most feared in Europe
  2. UK unemployment lowest since 1975
  3. Europe facing 'explosive cocktail' in its backyard, report warns
  4. Danish police to investigate misuse of EU fishing rules
  5. German constitutional court questions ECB's €2tn spending
  6. Low support for Norway's labour party ahead of elections
  7. Slovakia's future is with core EU, says PM
  8. Italy relieved as migration drops to lowest level since 2014

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  2. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  3. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  4. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  5. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  6. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  7. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  8. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  9. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  10. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides
  11. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  12. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  2. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  3. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Ep. 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  4. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  5. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  6. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  7. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School
  8. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  9. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead
  10. EU2017EEPM Ratas: EU Is Not Only an Idea for the 500mn People in the Bloc, It Is Their Daily Reality
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersCloser Energy Co-Operation Keeps Nordic Region on Top in Green Energy