The European Commission is making a “Digital Single Market” a
priority in the European Union. The commission wants to
remove barriers that separate the EU, such as geo blocking and
complicated VAT taxes.
Andrus Ansip, European Commission Digital Single Market VP,
says: “Let us do away with all those fences and walls that
block us online. People must be able to freely go across
borders online just as they do offline.”
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The Commission will move forward by focusing on three areas:
access to digital goods and services, allowing digital networks
to flourish, and creating a digital economy with long-term
They’ve issued a release that details their plans. The next
step will be the release of a comprehensive strategy in May.
1. Better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods
Facilitating cross-border e-commerce,
especially for SMEs, with harmonised consumer and contract
rules and with more efficient and affordable parcel delivery.
Today only 15% of consumers shop online from another EU
country – which is not surprising, if the delivery charge
ends up higher than the actual price of the product (see
Factsheet for more figures).
Tackling geo-blocking: too many Europeans
cannot use online services that are available in other EU
countries, often without any justification; or they are
re-routed to a local store with different prices. Such
discrimination cannot exist in a Single Market.
Modernising copyright law to ensure the
right balance between the interests of creators and those of
users or consumers. It will improve people’s access to
culture – and therefore support cultural diversity – while
opening new opportunities for artists and content creators
and ensuring a better enforcement of rights.
Simplifying VAT arrangements is important to
boost the cross-border activities of businesses, especially
SMEs. The cost and complexity of having to deal with foreign
tax rules are a major problem for SMEs. The VAT-related costs
due to different requirements are estimated at EUR 80
2. Shaping the environment for digital networks and services to
- All digital services, applications and content depend on
high-speed internet and secure networks: the lifeblood of new,
innovative digital services. To encourage investment in
infrastructure, the Commission will therefore review
the current telecoms and media rules to make them fit for new
challenges, in particular relating to consumer uses (for
example the increasing number of voice calls made over the
internet) and new players in the field.
Spectrum is the air the internet breathes. Improving
coordination among Member States is essential.
Europe has witnessed significant delays in the roll-out of
the latest 4G technology, as suitable spectrum was not
available. Spectrum does not stop at national borders: a
European approach to its management is needed to promote a
genuine single market with pan-European services.
- The Commission will look into the growing
importance of online platforms (search engines, social
media, app stores, etc.) for a thriving internet-enabled
economy. This includes looking at how to strengthen trust in
online services through more transparency, how to include them
in the online value chain, and to facilitate the swift removal
of illegal content.
- Today, 72% of internet users in Europe are concerned about
using online services because they worry that they have to
reveal too much personal data online. The swift
adoption of the Data Protection Regulation is key to boosting
3. Creating a European Digital Economy and Society with
long-term growth potential
- Industry is a key pillar of the European economy – the EU
manufacturing sector accounts for 2 million companies and 33
million jobs. The Commission wants to help all
industrial sectors integrate new technologies and manage the
transition to a smart industrial system (“Industry
Standards: ensuring interoperability for new
technologies are essential for Europe’s competitiveness, they
must be developed faster.
- The Commission also wants industry and society to make the
most of out of the data economy. Large amounts
of data are produced every second, created by persons or
generated by machines, such as sensors gathering climate
information, satellite imagery, digital pictures and videos,
purchase transaction records, or GPS signals. Big data is a
goldmine, but it also raises important challenges, from
ownership to data protection to standards. These need to be
addressed to unlock its potential.
- The same goes for cloud computing, the use
of which is rapidly growing: the proportion of digital data
stored in the cloud is projected to rise from 20% in 2013 to
40% in 2020. While shared networks and resources can boost our
economy, they also need the right framework to flourish and be
used by more people, companies, organisations and public
services across Europe.
- Europeans should also be able to fully benefit from
interoperable e-services, from e-government to
e-health, and develop their digital skills to seize the
opportunities of the internet and boost their chances of
getting a job.