Apart from the Green Deal, the shaping of digitalization is the second large project of the new EU Commission. The presentation of a White Paper on Artificial Intelligence has already been announced for next week. Reason enough, to have a look at the current developments and European projects in the digitalization sector.
The increasingly progressing digitalization of society is one of the declared core issues of the EU Commission. According to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the concrete aim is to exhaust the full potential of digital technologies in a safe and ethical environment. This concerns common standards for 5G networks and algorithms as well as regulations on human and ethical effects resulting from the use of Artificial Intelligence. The issue of digitalization shall also be given greater consideration within the scope of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) as well as in respect of the Industrial Strategy expected for 9 March 2020.
EU Member States have already signed the joint declaration on ensuring Europe’s digital future within the scope of the Digital Days 2019. In this declaration, they, among other, came out in favour of cooperating in respect of more women in the digital sector, an intelligent and sustainable digital future for agriculture and rural areas as well for digitalizing the European cultural heritage.
Europe in the digital age
The Commission has now announced a Communication under the heading “A Europe Fit for the Digital Age” for the first quarter of 2020. The document, which is, among other, concerning with “fair” competition, a digital tax and 5G technology has already been leaked.
In addition, a European approach on the issue of Artificial Intelligence has been announced for the first 100 working days of the Commission. The aim is to stipulate legal provisions regarding the application of this technology. On 19 February 2020, the Commission will present a White Paper on Artificial Intelligence - here too the document has been leaked. This week, the EU Parliament has already adopted a Resolution, which urges the Commission to protect consumer and civil rights. Consumers might also find the initiative regarding common chargers for mobile phones and similar devices, which has been announced for the 3rd quarter, very interesting.
Legal Act for digital services and Platform workers
Apart from that, a Digital Services Act, which has been announced for the 4th quarter 2020, shall increase the safety and liability of digital platforms and the products and services provided by them. According to a statement made by Commissioner Vestager at the Digital Summit of the German Government in October 2019, corresponding legal provisions shall ensure that these serve the population and not vice versa. At the same time, the working conditions of platform workers shall also be taken into consideration. A task, which will also be one of the main focusses of the work of the Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit. In his mandate letter, he was asked to examine “how the working conditions of online platform workers could be improved”. Hence a summit on the subject of platform work to take place on 22 September 2020, where the Commission wants to discuss issues such as employment status, working conditions and the social protection of platform workers as well as the possibilities to strengthen collective representation, has been announced.
Proceedings against Google before the ECJ
However, Digitalization Commissioner Vestager is also concerned with the dispute with major online companies and their (partly) unfair practices. In 2017, the EU Commission imposed a cartel fine against the online company Google, which made many take notice. The company’s fine amounted to about 2,42 billion because of unfair competition. Google appealed against the decision. The court hearing involving the two conflicting parties will take place before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) from 12 to 14 February. Should the ECJ rule that the fine is lawful, it would back up Vestager and confirm her hard course against Google.