European Commission launches 16 steps to put single digital market in motion

The European Commission has outlined 16 initiatives to get the ball rolling on its plans for a single digital market in the European Union

The European Commission (EC) has outlined 16 initiatives it is putting in place to get the ball rolling on plans for a single digital market in the European Union (EU).

Labelled the Digital Single Market Strategy, these 16 initiatives are split into three categories of targeted actions, which the EC wants delivered by the end of 2016.

In a video outlining the announcement, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said he promised in 2014 to make the creation of a single digital market a top priority – a promise he is now “making good on” by using the proposed strategy to create a market “fit for a digital age”.

“I want to see pan-continental telecommunications networks, digital services that cross borders and a wave of innovative European startups,” said Juncker. “I want to see every consumer getting the best deals and every business accessing the widest market – wherever they are in Europe.” 

The three main areas the Commission has focused on are: better access for consumers and businesses to find European digital goods and services, creating a level playing field for digital networks and innovation, and encouraging the growth of the potential digital economy.

The 16 areas of proposed improvement for an EU single digital market

  1. Implement rules to make cross-border e-commerce easier
  2. Enforce consumer protection rules quickly and consistently
  3. Make parcel delivery more affordable EU-wide
  4. End unnecessary geoblocking
  5. Identify competition concerns in the market
  6. Modernise EU copyright law
  7. Review the satellite and cable directive
  8. Reduce administration around cross-country VAT
  9. Overhaul EU telecommunications rules
  10. Review audiovisual media framework
  11. Analyse the role of online platforms in the market
  12. Build on EU data protection laws to include handling of digital services and personal data
  13. Partner with cyber security firms
  14. Propose an initiative to allow the free flow of data across the EU
  15. Define interoperability standards for particular markets
  16. Support a skills-driven inclusive digital society

To allow better access to European goods and services the Commission plans to implement rules to make cross-border e-commerce easier, including the implementation of clearer guidelines for online consumer protection across different countries.

The Commission also aims to reduce the cost of parcel delivery within Europe and to end location-based geo-blocking, which prevents price manipulation based on the customer’s location.

To make the implementation of digital networks easier, the EC is proposing an “overhaul” of EU telecommunications rules to promote co-ordination of EU-wide spectrum plans, including encouraging the introduction of high-speed broadband.

It will introduce new data protection rules to be adopted by the end of 2015 and propose partnerships with cyber security specialists to make the online experience more secure.

Finally, in maximising the growth potential of the digital economy, the EC focused on the need for standards and interoperability for core digital markets such as e-health initiatives and smart metering.

The EC proposed supporting citizens to ensure they have the skills a future unified digital economy might need to make them more employable. It will also implement an e-government action plan to connect business registers across Europe and promote interoperability of national systems to make information easily accessible.

“This 'only once' initiative will cut red tape and potentially save around €5bn per year by 2017. The roll-out of e-procurement and interoperable e-signatures will be accelerated,” said the proposal.

In the European Commission’s outline of why a single digital market is important, it cites 90% of future jobs will need some kind of digital skill and a unified single digital economy will create jobs Europe-wide.

To help meet these objectives, the European Commission launched a competition inquiry to identify areas of concern within the digital market in the EU.

The industry urges that the creation of these guidelines for the European single digital market must help towards creating the 3.8 million jobs as promised.

“Having different rules in 28 member states has held back the growth of Europe’s digital economy. Proposals to eliminate barriers to the delivery of digital goods and services across the EU will be good for business, consumers and growth,” said Antony Walker, techUK’s deputy CEO.

“But we have to guard against new barriers being erected. Europe should be driving the development of global standards not regional ones; it should be creating a regulatory framework for the future, not reinforcing regulation designed for the past; and it needs to ensure that new proposals for legislation are based on a clear understanding of the facts, not assumptions about how the digital economy works or attempts to rein in Europe’s competitors,” he said.

Read more on IT for government and public sector