By Owen Bennett
The increased emphasis on realising a true Digital Single Market (DSM) on the part of the European Commission was welcome news for the ICT sector last autumn. Indeed, with the appointment of a new Vice President for the DSM, the Commission has taken concrete action to put the digitalisation of Europe at the fore of the legislative agenda. And with estimates suggesting that the DSM could add EUR 250 billion in growth and hundreds of thousands of ICT jobs by 2020, this should come as no real surprise.
As part of its legislative plan for 2015, the European Commission has made the ambitious commitment to unveil its strategy for the Digital Single Market in early May. While there is still muich to finalise inside the Commission, European Parliament groups are already beginning to form their positions on the proposed strategy, with two political group workshops having taken place last week.
On Wednesday, the EPP and the S&D groups in the Parliament both held individual policy workshops to discuss their areas of priority for the DSM strategy. Addressing EPP MEPs, Vice President Ansip and Commissioner for Digital Economy Oettinger reaffirmed much of what has already been outlined on their aspirations for the DSM – the commitment to “making sure we can do online what can be done offline” across Europe. In general discussions surrounding the composition of the strategy, MEPs stressed the importance of provisions to balance the need for a more innovative digital Europe alongside safeguards and trust-building mechanisms for consumers.
The S&D workshop featured a wide variety of civil society actors alongside Commission cabinet officials. Representatives from consumer groups, digital social enterprises, and technology startups outlined the policies that their respective sectors require from the DSM strategy. From the interjections of MEPs present and the general makeup of invited speakers, it appears the S&D is seeking strong consumer safeguards to be presented in the May strategy announcement.
The Commission is holding an open DSM consultation on February 24th, where stakeholders will present submissions on the strategy makeup. So far the Commission has remained tightlipped on what’s in and what’s out of the strategy, with no concrete decision yet on the instruments of enforcement or policy priorities.
As such, May’s announcement will be eagerly anticipated across the European digital enterprise sectors and in the Parliament, and there will be much focus on whether the DSM strategy can match the Commission’s ambitious rhetoric.