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European Commission reviews Digital Single Market

The European Commission has called for “swift action” to drive forward its Digital Single Market initiative across the European Union. The Commission has just published its mid-term review of its Digital Single Market strategy.

The review takes stock of the progress made, calls on co-legislators to swiftly act on all proposals already presented, and outlines further action on online platforms, the data economy and cybersecurity. Since May 2015, the European Commission has delivered 35 legislative proposals and policy initiatives as part of its Digital Single Market strategy.

The focus is now on obtaining political agreement to boost investments in “high-speed and quality networks”, which are “critical” for the full deployment of the digital economy and society, said the Commission. Andrus Ansip, vice-president for the Digital Single Market, said: "Now, the European Parliament and member states need to adopt these proposals as soon as possible, for new jobs, business and innovation to take off across Europe. Two years on, we propose to update our strategy to reflect new challenges and technologies.

“We need cyber-secure infrastructure across all parts of the EU so that everyone everywhere can enjoy high-speed connectivity safely. We have already agreed on strong EU rules for personal data protection, we now need to make sure that non-personal data can flow freely to assist connected cars and eHealth services. And we need high-performance computing along with a digitally skilled workforce to make the most out of the data economy.”

On the data economy, the Commission is preparing a legislative initiative on the cross-border free flow of non-personal data (Autumn 2017) and an initiative on accessibility and the re-use of public and publicly funded data (Spring 2018).

In cybersecurity, by September 2017, the Commission will review the 2013 EU Cybersecurity Strategy, and the mandate of the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA), to align it to a new EU-wide framework on cybersecurity. The Commission will also propose additional measures on cyber security standards, certification and labelling to make connected objects – the Internet of Things - more cyber secure.

In the area of online platforms, by the end of 2017, the Commission will prepare an initiative to address “unfair contractual clauses and trading practices” identified in platform-to-business relationships. In addition, the Commission wants to address the need for further investment in digital infrastructure and technologies in areas where investment “needs to go far beyond the capacity of single member states”, such as high-performance computing.

“A fully functional Digital Single Market could contribute €415bn per year to our economy and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs,” said the Commission. The Commission cites the end of mobile roaming charges on 15 June 2017 for all travellers in the EU, and the release of the 700 MHz band for the development of 5G and new online services, as part of the progress made so far towards that Digital Single Market. The incoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation, which comes into force next year, is also part of the digital strategy.

Debbie Heywood, senior professional support lawyer at Taylor Wessing, said of the Commission's progress: “It is likely that all these initiatives will be relevant to the UK given the government's stated intention to preserve cross-border data flows between the UK and the EU after Brexit, to work with the EU on cybersecurity, and, of course, to continue online trade with the EU."

She added: "The Commission is turning its focus to non-personal data. In addition to bringing protection of non-personal data flows in line with those around personal data, it is also intending to look at the issue of ownership of non-personal data."