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18th Feb 2019

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EU leaders impatient with digital rules, leak says

  • EU leaders at the last summit in Brussels also called for the implementation of the digital single market strategy (Photo: European Council)

EU leaders will tell their telecoms ministers and the European Parliament to find a compromise on several digital legislative files before the end of the year, according to a leaked draft of the conclusions of their summit next week.

"Digitalisation offers immense opportunities for innovation, growth, jobs and for ensuring our global competitiveness," the document said, dated 9 October and published on the Statewatch website.

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The text repeated a previous commitment by government leaders that the EU's digital single market strategy should be implemented by the end of next year.

"Despite considerable progress, work in this area needs to be accelerated in order to meet this deadline," said the draft.

To achieve that, member state leaders said telecom ministers should "discuss how to accelerate and prioritise the work on the Digital Single Market" at their 24 October meeting.

They said negotiations between the EU Parliament and the Council of the EU, where ministers meet, on geo-blocking audio-visual media services should be wrapped up before the end of 2017.

EU legislation can usually only become law if both the council and parliament agree.

The draft text also said that, before the end of the year, telecom ministers should reach a compromise among themselves (before starting talks with the parliament) about two other digital proposals.

These proposals include plans to reduce barriers for data between EU states, and a new "electronic communications code", which lays down common EU rules for the telecom sector.

Artificial intelligence

The text also said that the EU needs "an openness to address emerging trends", such as artificial intelligence and blockchain technology, the latter best-known for its ability to support digital currencies, like Bitcoin.

EU leaders will ask the European Commission "to put forward a European approach to artificial intelligence by January 2018".

The text said that the European Council, where EU leaders meet for summits, will "closely follow developments in this area and provide the necessary guidance".

It said that if the Council of the EU, the forum for ministers, could not solve "issues", they would be "address[ed]" at the level of the European Council.

The summit in Brussels, on 19-20 October, follows a similar gathering in Tallinn last month, where the digital future was the main issue on the agenda.

The last time leaders convened in Brussels, in June, they also stressed the need for "the implementation of the digital single market strategy in all its elements".

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