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20th Feb 2019

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Ministers stress quality over speed in digital 2018 deadline

  • EU leaders want the digital single market up and running by the end of next year (Photo: Sandia Labs/Randy Wong)

EU ministers responsible for telecommunications highlighted the importance of the digital single market (DSM) strategy at a meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday (24 October), but some of them warned that speed should not trump quality.

"We need more ambition and faster progress in completing the DSM agenda, but nevertheless we need to make sure that we do not compromise in the quality of the legislation for the sake of speed," said Finnish communications minister Anne-Catherine Berner.

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  • Luxembourgish PM Bettel (l) greets Estonian minister Palo, with EU commissioner Gabriel (in blue) and EU commission vice-president Ansip (r) (Photo: Council of the European Union)

Her counterparts from Ireland, Malta, Sweden, and the UK also cautioned against a 'no-matter-what' attitude towards the EU's self-imposed deadline of completing all digital single market legislative files by the end of 2018.

"Quality matters more than speed," said Irish communications minister Denis Naughten.

"This quest for speed should never come at the expense of the quality of legislation," added Maltese diplomat Lorenzo Vella, representing his minister.

The meeting follows last week's summit of EU leaders in Brussels, which ended in a declaration that tasked telecommunications ministers to find out "how to speed up and prioritise the work" on the digital single market files.

The EU leaders want all digital plans adopted as law by the end of 2018.

Of the 24 legislative proposals tabled by the European Commission in the past two years, six have been adopted – they need approval from national governments and the European Parliament in order to become law.

Also present at the meeting was Andrus Ansip, one of the commission's vice-presidents, responsible for the digital single market strategy.

"There is no conflict between quality and speed. Both are needed," he said.

The ministers met in a format called the Telecommunications Council, which normally meets twice a year – Tuesday's meeting was added on the agenda by the Estonian presidency, which has made digital affairs a priority.

Estonian minister Urve Palo, who chaired the meeting, said wrapping up the legislative work on all digital files by the end of 2018 was "quite a big challenge", but "do-able" if member states want it to be.

She asked ministers – or the diplomats replacing them – how the work can be sped up.

Xavier Bettel, prime minister of Luxembourg but also the minister responsible for telecommunications, proposed that the Telecommunications Council should meet more often, for example "every three or four months".

He received explicit support from his colleagues from France, Slovakia, and the Netherlands.

"We have to meet more regularly, otherwise we'll make no progress," said French minister for the digital sector Mounir Mahjoubi.

His German colleague Matthias Machnig said that "perhaps" there should be more council meetings.

"But we need more councils where decisions are taken, not where we just come to make statements," he said.

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