On 6 May, the European Commission is due to launch its long-awaited Digital Single Market Strategy. The Strategy is going to address several issues that constitute hurdles to a fully integrated European digital market, such as varying broadband connections, diverging data protection rules, geo-blocking and different VAT systems. Andrus Ansip and Günter Oettinger are leading a team of 12 Commissioners involved in drafting the Strategy.
According to the Commission, achieving an integrated market for digital services would greatly benefit the EU economy. It could provide €340 billion in additional growth and consumers could save €11.7 billion per year if they could purchase goods and services online from all 28 Member States. At present, EU cross-border services online only make up 4 percent of the global digital market and a mere 7 percent of EU SMEs are selling online.
On 25 March, the Commission outlined the three key areas the Strategy will focus on: Better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services, Shaping the environment for digital networks and services to flourish and Creating a European Digital Economy and Society with long-term growth potential. Increasing cross-border e-commerce, reviewing telecom and media legislation, as well as increasing the use of new technologies, are areas that have already been touched upon under the Digital Agenda - the first flagship initiative of Europe 2020. Despite the Commission being on track to complete 95 of its 101 digital actions, according to the 2014 Scoreboard, many discrepancies remain between the individual Member States.
Many stakeholders have been expressing their wishes and concerns vis-a-vis the Strategy to the Commission via workshops, chat sessions and the Digital4EU website. The extent to which the points of views of consumers and the industry will be reflected in the final document of course remains to be seen. Probably one of the most debated and sensitive issues ahead of the publication is the Commission's intention to modernise the 2001 copyright directive. A decisive factor in shaping the future of the creative industry, the copyright review can be considered one of the building blocks of the Digital Single Market.
Overall, the creation of a true Digital Single Market is going to take time and effort from both policy-makers and stakeholders. The Strategy however can provide the boost the EU urgently needs in order to re-invent itself on the digital scene.
This article is an extract from a Dods Monitoring EU whitepaper.