European Commission Presses for Digital Reforms on the Continent

Andrus Ansip

Andrus Ansip, European Commissioner for Digital Single Market, holds a press conference at the European Commission in Brussels, March 25, 2015.

Less than two weeks after unveiling plans to create a unified digital single market strategy for boosting cross-border commerce, European Commission vp Andrus Ansip addressed several committee members of the European Parliament on Tuesday (May 19), telling them "we need change… and that change is digital."

The goal of a digital single market, or DSM, is to unite industries and consumers online across all 28 EU member countries. Ansip told members from France, Greece, the U.K. and elsewhere that the region's "single market is not working as well as it should. Without the digital element playing its full part, all of us are missing out on a wealth of opportunity. The DSM is about allowing the freedoms of Europe's single market to enter the digital age."

Ansip, who is in charge of the DSM, focused his speech on three major policy pillars, with each containing several initiatives:

  • Better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe;
  • High-quality infrastructure that works smoothly across Europe. We also need to create the right and fair conditions in the underlying environment;
  • Preparing for the future, to maximise the growth potential of the digital economy.

Some of the plan's more urgent tasks will be to guarantee the free movement of digital goods and services, improve online access and bring rules for online purchases more in line across the EU. Ansip also said the commission will propose changes to the copyright system, as well as promote cultural diversity and urge ambitious reforms of telecoms' rules and regulations on broadband access.

"We need equal conditions for all to compete openly and fairly in this digital market," he said. "Every company -- large or small -- plays by the same rules. No discrimination. No favouritism."

Ansip added that the initiatives cannot be chopped up if they want this strategy to work. "If we only succeed in putting half of them into effect then we will not end up with a true digital single market," he warned.

Following his remarks, several members of Parliament offered statements, mostly in support of a DSM for EU states.

French EPP member Françoise Grossetête: "Either Europe gets on board or it simply becomes a digital colony. We shouldn't just be consuming in Europe, we should be creators."

UK ECR member Vicky Ford: "Unlocking the benefits is key to driving competiveness, jobs and growth. The Commission strategy is good in parts but needs more work in others. The digital market is a global market and building a fortress around Europe will not work."

Czech ALDE member Dita Charanzová: "[The strategy] should do even more to create a level-playing field for all European businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, which have to pay a lot to sell beyond their national borders."

Austrian Greens/EFA member Michel Reimon: "We heard about the better access for the consumers to goods and services but not a word at all about democracy or about access to knowledge."

Mylène Troszczynski, a non-attached member from France was critical: "You show open contempt for nations and people" for focussing on removing national barriers."

The proposals for the digital single market will be on the agenda of the European Council meeting on June 25-26. A final draft of proposals will then go to individual European parliaments to be debated and potentially amended. The European parliament will then vote on a final draft.


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