Digital Europe – 5 years later

Balance sheet 2014-2019: Roaming * GDPR * taxation


The digital single market was one of the priorities of the European Commission chaired by Jean-Claude Juncker. On May 6, 2015, she presented the strategy to realize this ambitious plan regrouping the 28 member countries. From e-commerce to the protection of personal data, from the right to competition, to the regulation of telecommunications, the plan initially included 16 initiatives that spawned 30 legislative proposals. As we approach the end of the 2014/2019 term, has this huge project kept all its promises?

The Juncker Commission has set itself the goal of adapting the EU’s single market to the digital age in order to resist US hegemony and boost the economy. Its strategy is based on three key pillars: improving access to goods and services for consumers and businesses, creating an enabling environment and a level playing field for the development of digital networks and services, and finally making digital economy a growth engine. ” We will have the courage to break down national barriers to telecommunications regulation, copyright and data protection, as well as radio wave management and competition law enforcement. Explained the Commission President in the list of priorities for the project.

Despite the many obstacles that have come before it, the Juncker Commission has had some great success stories, some of which, like the RGPD, have become models for many foreign countries. While a majority of the measures adopted by the European Commission have been adopted, new subjects such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity or blockchain have emerged during the term of office and are still the subject of heated debate between the various European institutions. After five years of hard work, however, the progress is very real for European cyber citizens. Focus on some of the flagship measures during this mandate.

The roaming revolution

For European consumers, the removal of roaming charges in the 28 EU member states is undoubtedly one of the most popular measures adopted by Parliament over the last five years. After more than ten years of heated negotiations with national telecom regulators and operators, the European Parliament and Council have managed to reach a political agreement on the new rules to be applied for roaming charges on the Old Continent. Signed on June 17, 2017, it allows European consumers to call, send SMS and use data from their mobile devices in all EU countries at the same price as in their home country. “The end of roaming charges is a big win for European consumers. Users traveling across the EU can read their e-mails, find their way on a map, upload photos on social networks, make phone calls or send text messages, without any extra cost, ” says Finnish MEP , Miapetra Kumpula-Natri, evoking this historic agreement. Roam like at Home has become a reality for all those who travel regularly or occasionally in Europe.


The GDPR: the European model

Voted in 2016 and effective May 25, 2018, the European Regulation on the Protection of Personal Data (GDPR) is undeniably one of the greatest achievements of the Juncker Commission. The GDPR aims to improve the protection of citizens by offering them better control over their personal data. For this, the regulation has set a strict legislative framework and new rules to which companies holding these data must comply in the EU. The reform also provides for minimum standards for the use of data for judicial purposes. According to an initial assessment drawn up by the European Commission eight months after the application of the Regulation, the authorities responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Regulation registered more than 95 000 complaints relating to e-reputation, promotion by e-mail or video surveillance. The report states that 41,502 security breaches were reported within 72 hours of discovery as required by the regulation. Following these reports, the authorities conducted 255 investigations that resulted in only three sanctions, including a record fine of 50 million euros imposed on Google by CNIL in France.

Despite the constraints of compliance and fears related to large fines, the GDPR is now a model abroad. More and more foreign companies that initially implement these rules for Europe eventually extend them to the whole world. This is particularly true of Facebook, which promised the European Parliament to comply with the EU and then apply the same rules around the world. In charge of the legislation in the European Parliament, German Green MP Jan Philipp Albrecht is full of praise for the reform:“With the new GDPR regulation, the European Union is setting a standard that could also become a global standard because we are the largest market in the world. We have created an environment of trust for online consumers. I think that in this area, Made in Europe will become a trademark. 

A more “fair” economic environment

In a speech on September 13, 2017, Jean-Claude Juncker announced an initiative ” aimed at guaranteeing, in the online economy, a fair, predictable, sustainable and trusting environment “. One of the other notable achievements of the 2014-2019 term is the adoption of the P2B (platform to business) regulation aimed at rebalancing the relationship between online platforms and companies that depend almost entirely on their services. In addition to many rules of good conduct, online platforms will mainly be subject to transparency requirements regarding the ranking of search results, but also highlighting their own products or services.

According to Mariya Gabriel, the digital commissioner, imposing these new rules is essential: ” For European companies, platforms and search engines are important channels for reaching consumers, but we must make sure that they do not do not abuse their power, which would harm their business users. We are taking an essential step by providing clear transparency rules and an effective dispute resolution mechanism and by launching an observatory to more accurately analyze the practices of online platforms. Ensuring that platforms and search engines treat other companies fairly is essential. 


Europe against GAFA

Until the regulation is finally adopted and comes into force one year from now, the European Commission has not hesitated to tackle head-on the GAFA dominating the digital economy. Starting with the killing of the scandalous ruling-tax, which was widely enjoyed by Apple in Ireland and was forced to return him no less than 13 billion euros. But it is probably Google, which for now is the hardest hit by the new rules adopted by lawmakers regarding the anticompetitive practices of online platforms. The Commission has imposed fines for abuse of dominant position of its search engine on Android (4.3 billion euros), its price comparators on Google Shopping (2.42 billion euros), and most recently for its anti-competitive practices in online advertising with AdSense (€ 1.49 billion). Beyond the fines, Google seems willing to show good will by recently agreeing to offer other browsers that Chrome Chrome on Android, which was installed so far by default.

If Brussels won a few battles, it is far from winning the war. Last September, EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager announced that she was launching an informal investigation into Amazon to determine possible abuse of dominance. The Commission suspects that the e-commerce giant is exploiting the data of the third-party sellers it hosts in its marketplace in order to refine its own sales tools. Apple is also in the viewfinder of Brussels following a complaint filed by Spotify accusing the firm to promote the application of its own music streaming service. Two very big issues that the next European Commission will inherit. A revision of the P2B regulation is already planned for the next European mandate.  (L’1FO)

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