Tear down the fences: European Commission sets priorities for the Digital Single Market

25 Mar 2015

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E-commerce, infrastructure and privacy have been identified by the European Commission as key pillars to ensuring Europe has a functioning Digital Single Market.

The European Commission today called for Europe to get rid of the fences and walls that block Europe from functioning as an homogenous digital economy like that of the US.

To achieve this rules on everything from telecoms, security and data protection need to be harmonized.

“Europe cannot be at the forefront of the digital revolution with a patchwork of 28 different rules for telecommunications services, copyright, IT security and data protection,” Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society Günther H. Oettinger said.

“We need a European market, which allows new business models to flourish, start-ups to grow and the industry to take advantage of the internet of things. And people have to invest too – in their IT-skills, be it in their job or their leisure time”.

The Commission's Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) ranks Ireland 9th out of the 28 EU Member States in the digital performance stakes with an overall score of 0.52. This places Ireland into the cluster of 'medium-performance' countries alongside countries like Germany, France and the UK.

Digital goods and services

A key facet of the plan is making it smoother to shop in other EU countries online. Today only 15pc of consumers shop online from another EU country.

The Commission identified delivery charges, geo-blocking that stops services from being available cross-border, the need to modernize copyright law and simplifying VAT arrangements

The Commission said that the cost and complexity of having to deal with foreign tax rules are a major problem for SMEs. The VAT-related costs due to different requirements are estimated at €80bn.

Telecoms infrastructure

The Commission said that it will review the current telecoms and media rules to make these industries fit for the challenges ahead and to encourage investment in infrastructure.

To boost spectrum and the march of 4G technology the Commission plans to change its approach to spectrum because spectrum does not stop at national borders.

Trust

For a thriving internet economy to happen the Commission said that it plans to look at ways of strengthening trust in online services through more transparency as well as facilitating the removal of illegal content from the web.

Seventy-two percent of internet users in Europe are concerned about using online services because they worry that they have to reveal too much personal data. The swift adoption of the Data Protection Regulation is key to boosting trust, the Commission said.

“Let us do away with all those fences and walls that block us online. People must be able to freely go across borders online just as they do offline. Innovative businesses must be helped to grow across the EU, not remain locked into their home market,” said the vice president for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip said.

“This will be an uphill struggle all the way, but we need an ambitious start. Europe should benefit fully from the digital age: better services, more participation and new jobs.”

Digital Europe image via Shutterstock

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com