The European Commission has made it a priority to create a Digital Single Market: making the EU's single market freedoms "go digital", and boosting growth and jobs on the continent. The College of Commissioners today had a first discussion on the Digital Single Market Strategy due in May - and set out the main areas the Commission will focus its work on to trigger changes for consumers and businesses alike.
Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip 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. 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".
Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society Gunther H. Oettinger 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, 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 EC will focus on delivering better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services, by facilitating cross-border e-commerce, especially for SMEs, with harmonised consumer and contract rules and with more efficient and affordable parcel delivery.
Too many Europeans cannot use online services that are available in other EU countries, often without any justification; or they are re-routed to a local store with different prices. EC says that such discrimination cannot exist in a Single Market.
In addition, the Commission will focus on modernising copyright law to ensure the right balance between the interests of creators and those of users or consumers.
Simplifying VAT arrangements is also important to boost the cross-border activities of businesses, especially SMEs. The cost and complexity of having to deal with foreign tax rules are a major problem for SMEs.
To encourage investment in infrastructure, the Commission will also review the current telecoms and media rules to make them fit for new challenges, in particular relating to consumer uses (for example the increasing number of voice calls made over the internet) and new players in the field.
Europe has witnessed significant delays in the roll-out of the latest 4G technology, as suitable spectrum was not available. A European approach to its management is needed to promote a genuine single market with pan-European services.
The Commission will also look into the growing importance of online platforms (search engines, social media, app stores, etc.) for an internet-enabled economy. This includes looking at how to strengthen trust in online services through more transparency, how to include them in the online value chain, and to facilitate the swift removal of illegal content.
Today, 72% of internet users in Europe are concerned about using online services because they worry that they have to reveal too much personal data online. The swift adoption of the Data Protection Regulation is key to boosting trust in onlibe serrvices, the EC said.
The EU manufacturing sector accounts for 2 million companies and 33 million jobs. The Commission wants to help all industrial sectors integrate new technologies and manage the transition to a smart industrial system.
The Commission also wants industry and society to make the most of out of the data economy. Large amounts of data are produced every second. Big data is a goldmine, but it also raises important challenges, from ownership to data protection to standards. These need to be addressed to unlock its potential.
The same goes for cloud computing, the use of which is rapidly growing.