The European Commission has highlighted the three main areas of focus in its digital single market strategy, including improving EU digital networks and creating a European digital economy.
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Barriers such as geo-blocking, lack of cross-border delivery initiatives and other technical issues currently prevent many citizens from using cross-border digital services, such as online shopping or sharing digital goods.
The commission aims to focus on making it easier to access digital services online, invest in digital networking infrastructure and create a European digital economy to reduce these barriers and implement a single digital market.
Andrus Ansip, the EU's VP for the single digital market, said: “Innovative businesses must be helped to grow across the EU, not remain locked into their home market. 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.”
The EU single digital market has been debated for some time, with suggestions such as increased mobility, a single digital market for cloud-based services, and a focus on cyber security all being cited as important in promoting a cross-border digital market throughout the EU.
Areas of focus to promote a single digital market
- Promote consumer access to digital businesses, goods and services.
- Promote growth of digital infrastructure and networks.
- Create a European digital economy and society.
The EC proposes to focus on removing as many barriers as possible to promote the single digital market, including promoting affordable parcel delivery, tackling geo-blocking to prevent unnecessary website rerouting, and modernising copyright law and VAT differences to make it easier to trade digital goods and services.
The commission will review current telecoms and media rules to promote growth of digital services and networks. This will also encourage investment in infrastructure, faster rollout of 4G and data protection development.
These steps will contribute to the growth of a European digital economy and society, creating jobs and skills and developing interoperable digital services, such as e-government and e-health.
Günther Oettinger, commissioner for the digital economy and society, said: “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.
“We need a European market, which allows new business models to flourish, startups to grow and the industry to take advantage of the internet of things. People have to invest, too – in their IT skills, be it in their job or their leisure time.”
Read more about the EU digital single market
- The UK is the EU’s leading digital economy and home to its biggest creative sector, so has most to gain and most to lose in a digital single market.
- At the Digital Venice conference in Italy, Stefano Pileri, CEO of Italian telecoms firm Italtel, called for greater collaboration and investment in network development across the EU, including the creation of a single digital market.
To aid this, competition policy commissioner Margrethe Vestager is about to propose launching an inquiry into competition in the European e-commerce market.
The inquiry would focus on incidences of e-commerce across Europe being prevented by language barriers, legislation and companies implementing cross-border restrictions.
Vestager said: “It is high time to remove the remaining barriers to e-commerce, which is a vital part of a true digital single market in Europe. The envisaged sector inquiry will help the commission to understand and tackle barriers to e-commerce to the benefit of European citizens and business.”
About 50% of EU citizens made online purchases in 2014, but only 15% of EU citizens used the internet to buy goods from other EU countries.
Vestager said she hopes to use the inquiry to look into private and contractual barriers to cross-border e-commerce and use the results to implement competition law and promote a single digital market.