On 22 June 2018, the European Commission published a factsheet that provides a visual summary of the actions taken to date to implement its Digital Single Market strategy. The Digital Single Market strategy refers to the European Commission’s mission to ensure access to online activities for individuals and businesses under conditions of fair competition, consumer and data protection, removing geo-blocking and copyright issues.
The factsheet sets out a timeline, which shows the status of each of the Digital Single Market strategy initiatives presented by the Commission since its announcement of the Digital Single Market strategy in 2015. The factsheet shows that 29 legislative initiatives have been presented, of which 17 have been agreed by the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the Commission.
There remain 12 Commission legislative initiatives that the European Parliament and the Council are yet to reach agreement on. Notably, the forthcoming ePrivacy Regulation initially envisaged as coming into force at the same time as the General Protection Regulation 2016/679 remains very much in the negotiation process. With the upcoming European elections in 2019 looming ever closer, there is a very real danger that unless rapid progress is made, the whole adoption process could find itself put on hold.
The Commission also suffered a major setback last month when the European Parliament voted to send the controversial Copyright Directive (2016/0280) back for further consideration. Article 11, which proposed a “link tax” that would force online platforms to pay news organisations before linking to their stories, remains hotly contested. Similarly, Article 13, which proposes an “upload filter” that would require all content uploaded online to be checked for copyright infringement, is the subject of fierce debate, both at the political and industry levels.
It should be noted that the legislative initiatives pursued by the Commission tell only part of the story. It has also taken a number of non-legislative steps in its pursuance of the Digital Single Market strategy. For example, on 20 March 2018 it launched the European Union Blockchain Observatory and Forum, the purpose of which is to “accelerate blockchain innovation and the development of the blockchain ecosystem within the EU”. Another driving initiative is the Fintech Action Plan, published on 8 March 2018, which proposes 23 steps to enable innovative business models to scale up, support the uptake of new technologies and to enhance cybersecurity and the integrity of the financial system.
The published factsheet demonstrates that the Commission has taken significant steps toward the establishment of the Digital Single Market, but also serves to highlight that there is some way to go in achieving a truly frictionless online European environment.