Monday

18th Mar 2019

EU unveils '€415bn' digital strategy

  • Commission vice-president for digital single market Andrus Ansip showing his tablet to colleagues. (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission presented on Wednesday (6 May) its digital strategy which will, according to digital commissioner Gunther Oettinger, “reinforce our digital authority … give us digital sovereignty … and make us competitive globally”.

The German commissioner unveiled the Digital Single Market Strategy in Brussels together with vice-president Andrus Ansip.

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

  • Commissioner for Digital Economy and society, Gunther Oettinger, at the commission's weekly college meeting ahead of the digital single market strategy presentation. (Photo: European Commission)

The paper, which outlines 16 initiatives in three “pillars”, promises that a digital single market can create €415 billion in additional growth annually.

The three pillars are: “Better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe; shaping the right environment for digital networks and services to flourish; and creating a European Digital Economy and society with growth potential”.

The paper includes announcements for new legislative proposals to reform the copyright regime and to reduce the administrative burden on digital service providers.

It’s not the first time the EU commission has tried to create a digital single market.

Less than two years ago, the previous administration presented what it called “its most ambitious plan in 26 years of telecoms market reform”.

That plan has not yet been implemented.

Instead, national governments decided to reduce their negotiations with the European Parliament to just two measures from the plan: limiting the practice of roaming surcharges, and defining the concept of network neutrality.

Talks on the old proposal were meant to resume on Tuesday (5 May), but were delayed until the end of the month.

Meanwhile, intense lobbying isn’t making it easy for those arguing for rigorous changes to the status quo.

But Ansip said he had taken member states’ interests into account in order to make the proposals broadly palatable.

“The vast majority of member states have asked for the digital single market to happen. The strategy reflects their contributions and those of the European Parliament's main political groups”.

“I would like to say that this strategy is a document prepared also by member states”, he added.

Reactions

Reactions to the proposals were mixed.

DigitalEurope, representing Europe’s tech industries, said there’s “much ... to be recommended”.

Tech giant Vodafone noted that "ensuring people’s data and privacy are protected no matter where they are and what technology they use is essential."

Syed Kamall, a British centre-right MEP, praised the EU for trying to end the “bureaucratic nightmare" of cross-border VAT payments for small businesses.

Beuc, a consumer rights NGO, was more critical.

“Regrettably, the longstanding problem of copyright levies has been omitted", director general Monique Goyens said.

“The fact that less than 4 percent of ‘Video On Demand’ services are accessible across EU national borders shows the scale of the task ... harmonisation of copyright laws to allow for modern uses is a matter of urgency”.

But Veronique Desbrosses, the head of Gesac, a society representing European authors, took the opposite view, indicating that the real impact of the EU "strategy" is open to debate.

She “welcomed the intention of the commission to clarify the conditions for the use of copyright-protected works by online intermediaries”.

No deadline

With successive commissions having talked about completing the last elements of the single market for years, Ansip and Oettinger were careful not to be pinned down to exact dates.

“As far as a deadline, we thought about it, but … we know we're not the only ones who [have to] deliver”, an EU official said, referring to the European Parliament and the member states.

“The sooner, the better”, the official added.

With legislative proposals still needing to be tabled in the next year and a half, followed by position-taking by the member states and parliament, and subsequent negotiations between the institutions, it could take several years before European citizens and businesses feel the effect of Wednesday's strategy.

And this means there is a danger - as in the past - that the fast-evolving digital world will outpace the legislative process for the new digital strategy.

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?

Focus

Juncker defends authors' rights

"I have a sort of erotic relation to news-print, to smell it", the commission chief joked, saying the EU shouldn't follow the US model on authors' rights.

Feature

EU to analyse role of Facebook and Google

The EU will start an assessment into the role of online platforms. But the increased influence of internet companies has already been discussed by 'internet critics' for several years.

News in Brief

  1. Third Brexit vote this week only if DUP will support it
  2. Germany's two largest banks confirm merger talks
  3. Serbian pro-democracy protests reach 15th week
  4. 'Yellow Vest' riots leave Paris shops vandalised
  5. European woman older when having first baby
  6. Majority of Germans want Merkel to stay on
  7. Asylum applications in the EU down to 580,800 in 2018
  8. Children's climate school strikes turn global on Friday

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  2. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  3. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  6. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  11. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  12. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  2. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  5. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us