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Two years ago, the European Commission presented 16 initiatives within the strategy for the Digital Single Market. On Wednesday, the responsible Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip presented the mid-term review of this strategy.

 

The original strategy is based on three pillars: firstly, improving access for companies and consumers to digital goods and services, secondly, creating an attractive environment and thirdly, exploiting the growth potential of the digital economy. When the original strategy was presented, the AK position paper already pointed out that the addressed growth effects are based on measures by the supply side and that too little attention is paid to quality and distribution of employment.

 

Commission Vice-President Ansip addressed the strategy and said that the Commission had “kept its promises” – he referred to the abolition of roaming charges and the measures against geo-blocking as substantial successes – thus two consumer-side measures, where, however, negative consequences for consumers cannot fully be ruled out. With regard to further issues, for example in the field of frequency policy, he addressed the EU's legislative capacities and demanded that the respective Commission proposals were speedily dealt with. It is time to set the course, as it is now that it is decided whether the Digital Single Market could become reality.

 

He emphasised three focal points for the second half of the strategy: 1) online platforms, 2) the development of the EU data economy and 3) the expansion of cybersecurity.

 

With regard to online platforms, the Commission mainly announced company related measures. Apart from the Communication on online platforms, which was dealt with in several Committees of the European Parliament this week, a Commission proposal against unfair contract clauses and trading practices (such as the sale of imitated goods via online platforms) will be presented by the end of the year. However, the focus is clearly on companies’ cross-border access to platforms. According to the Commission, 42 % of all European SMEs already sell their goods and services via platforms. This figure should be increased even further. Besides that, it would be important to protect companies and platforms acting “in good faith”. Aspects of platform work/crowdworking, fair taxation of platform companies (as debated last week at an event organised by AK, ÖGB and IG-Metall) were not addressed during the press conference. However, the Commission mentioned the issue of fake news and hate postings in the context of online platforms and announced that it would strive for a European solution regarding notification and redress procedures.

 

In order to further increase the volume of the cross-border EU data economy, the Commission announced two legislative initiatives. On the one hand, the data flow of non-personal data shall be made easier, on the other, accessibility and use of public and publically accessible data shall be regulated as of 2018. However, it remains unclear how easier data use for companies (without accompanying demand-oriented measures) could actually generate growth and employment.

 

Finally, with respect to cybersecurity the European Commission will revise the European cybersecurity strategy and equip the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) with new competencies. These considerations too are based on the supply-side principle of the Commission and imply increased trust and improved security may increase the volume of economic activities.

 

To sum up, the Commission has announced three new initiative areas and urged the finalisation of the present measures. Nevertheless, the overall strategy continues to focus on companies and their market access. Activities with regard to hate postings seem to be fundamentally positive and important, as here – besides many national initiatives, such as in Germany and Austria – a European perspective is needed due to the cross-border use of social media. However, the strategy continues to largely ignore questions on the future of work as well as tax justice, which should get particular attention in light of increasing digitalisation.

 

Further information:

AK EUROPA: Position paper on the Digital Single Market strategy

AK EUROPA: Lots of activity in the Digital Single Market

AK EUROPA: First proposal on rules for robots – still robot tax rejected in Parliament

AK Policy Paper: Crowdwork and platform-based work (DE)

Joint declaration of international trade unions on platform work

Book project in ÖGB-Verlag: Working in the Gig-Economy (DE)

AK Brochure: Howe do we create a fair digital change? (DE)