The Digital Single Market Strategy, launched in May 2015, is one of the main priorities of the Juncker Commission. The European Movement International is convinced that the digital economic model can indeed bring Europe jobs and growth and be of benefit to all Europeans. However, in developing this model, the following should be taken into account:
Jobs, digital and entrepreneurial skills and growth
A fully functioning Digital Single Market will bring numerous benefits for the European Union in terms of jobs, skills and economic growth. It could boost the EU’s GDP by €415 billion annually, according to a study commissioned by the European Parliament.
But in order to bring long-term benefits to the European economy, the focus should be on:
Developing new e-skills and including them in school curricula from an early age as well as in trainings for the workforce, with a focus on life-long-learning;
Improving the business climate for SMEs, micro-enterprises, social enterprises and start-ups, without prejudice to worker rights and standards;
Fostering growth in areas such as e-Commerce, e-Health, e-Governance, Cloud Computing and a European Research Cloud, big data, Internet of Things, digitalisation of traditional industries, open innovation, and the rollout of 5G;
Fostering sustainable growth in cultural and creative industries, that have proved their resilience to the economic crisis and are well-placed to grow further;
The digital transformation of industry, allowing it to increase efficiency and access untapped potential, as Europe’s industry is essential for the competitiveness of the European economy;
Support for the workforce, including the regulation of new forms of employment that emerged in part as a result of new digital possibilities, in order to prevent a negative impact on working conditions.
Integration: no fragmentation of the European market
The creation of a Digital Single Market requires a combined effort from all European institutions and Member States. The ‘pick & choose’ attitude of national governments must be countered. The protection of vested interests is not to the benefit of the European Union or its citizens. A fully integrated Digital Single Market has the potential to make the EU more competitive on the global market.
Benefits for the European public sphere and governance
Several elements of the Digital Single Market offer the opportunity to enhance the European public sphere and to increase citizen participation in public life:
e-Government: apart from its growth potential, e-Government holds opportunities to provide more transparent, accountable and effective governance, to foster the participation of citizens in social and political life, and to enhance democracy on different levels – but in particular on the European level – through the use of new technologies;
Geo-blocking: geo-blocking and unfair price discrimination based on geographical location should end. Apart from the benefit to media, entertainment and online trade, this also holds opportunities for the creation of a true European public space by removing digital barriers;
Automated translation services: automated translation services will enable communication across borders and languages, again to the benefit of a true European public space;
Copyright: the development of a modernised copyright framework that guarantees the rights of all stakeholders and a fair remuneration for creators will foster European cultural diversity, and at the same time address the current transfer of value in the market vis-a-vis online intermediaries, who unjustly invoke the Safe Harbour liability regime.
Benefits for all Europeans
With regard to the benefits of the Digital Economic Model for citizens, the two-fold focus should be
1) to pursue the interest of users; and
2) to secure equal access for all.
This includes ensuring internet access everywhere with fair and affordable pricing, and granted accessibility for the disadvantaged and those with limited online-skills. It also includes better and more efficient communication with citizens across Europe, not in the least on the benefits of the Digital Single Market.
Safeguards and protection for citizens
Considering that users’ trust in digital services is vital to innovation and growth in the digital economy, reinforcing that trust – for example through data protection and high-level security standards – should be at the basis of both public policy and business models.
The Digital Economic Model should strike a balance between the economic benefits and access to data on the one hand, and privacy concerns (surveillance, data interception and collection, identity theft) on the other. The setup of a European public-private partnership on cybersecurity should also reflect this balance, and explicitly address any concerns expressed by citizens and other stakeholders. Overall, the Digital Economic Model should build a safer and more secure online environment for European citizens.
The PDF version of this Policy Position can be found here.
Published in December 2015