On 18 December 2012, the European Commission (“Commission”) adopted seven new priorities for 2013-2014 to promote the EU digital society and economy. This follows on from the Commission’s comprehensive policy review of the Digital Agenda for Europe, which was originally adopted in 2010 to stimulate the digital economy and address societal challenges through information and communication technologies (“ICT”).

From a legal perspective, the most significant new priorities adopted are:

  • EU cyber-security strategy and Directive: as part of its aim to offer the world’s safest online environment, the Commission intends to deliver a strategy and a proposed new Directive to establish a common minimum level of cyber-security preparedness at national level throughout the EU. The Commission proposes specific initiatives to be introduced, namely the creation of an online platform to prevent and counter cross-border cyber incidents and the imposition of incident reporting requirements. The Commission hopes that the new strategy and Directive will also help to stimulate a larger European market for security and privacy-by-design products; and
  • EU copyright framework: in recognition of the fact that the modernisation of the EU copyright framework is key to achieving its aim of a Digital Single Market, the Commission will commence a stakeholder consultation process in 2013 as part of its efforts to find solutions for copyrightrelated issues in the digital era. The Commission will at the same time complete its continuing efforts to generally review and modernise the EU copyright legislative framework with the aim of deciding in 2014 whether or not to propose legislative reforms.

The other new priorities adopted by the Commission focus around achieving the following technical and commercial objectives:

  • Creating a new and stable broadband regulatory environment: in light of the need for greater private investment in high speed fixed and mobile broadband networks, finalising a new and stable broadband regulatory environment is the Commission's top stated digital priority for 2013;
  • Rolling out new public digital service infrastructures: the Commission has estimated that eProcurement alone could save €100 billion per year; accordingly, it will fast-track the roll out of digital services in the public sector including in relation to eIDs and eSignatures, business mobility, eJustice and electronic health records;
  • Launching a grand coalition on digital skills and jobs: at a time of high general unemployment in the EU, the Commission will coordinate public and private sector actions with the aim of avoiding one million ICT jobs going unfilled by 2015 due to a lack of skilled personnel;
  • Accelerating cloud computing adoption through public procurement: the Commission will progress its initiative to create the world's largest cloud-enabled ICT market by launching pilot actions in the European Cloud Partnership to harness public buying power; and
  • Launching a new electronics industrial strategy: the Commission will propose an industrial strategy for promoting micro- and nano-electronics with the aim of increasing Europe's attractiveness for investment in design and production.

WAB Comment:

Following on from the recent publication of the Commission’s strategy for unleashing the potential of cloud computing in Europe, the adopted priorities further demonstrate the Commission’s awareness of the need to implement a comprehensive program of specific legal, technical and commercial measures to realise the potential of the EU market for ICT services. The proposal for a cyber-security Directive, in particular, is timely given the increasing frequency and scale of cyber-attacks. All organisations operating in the ICT sector will need to stay abreast of not only the technical security measures that may be imposed if the new Directive is implemented but also the legal obligations to report data security breaches which have been proposed by the draft EU data protection regulation.