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European Commission - Speech - [Check Against Delivery]

Why the EU needs a Digital Single Market: Speech by Vice-President Ansip in the European Parliament plenary session

Strasbourg, 26 November 2014

Honourable Members,

It's a pleasure to be back in the European Parliament and in Strasbourg. I agree with you that the Digital Single Market requires our immediate attention. For this, we need the Telecoms Single Market as a solid basis for the future.

I know this Parliament agrees with the ambitious plan to achieve a truly connected Digital Single Market, as can be seen in your resolution and your support for the Telecoms Single Market package. But I am worried about the direction that the Telecoms Single Market negotiations have taken in the Council, where Member States are divided.

The Telecoms Single Market is an essential building block of the Digital Single Market. Without it, we cannot achieve the rest. The European Council asked for it in October 2013, and tomorrow, in the Telecoms Council, Member States need to be ambitious and take a decisive step towards achieving it. What kind of Digital Single Market would we build without decent solutions on roaming, net neutrality and, more importantly, on spectrum?

The net neutrality concept has to be solid and should be clearly defined. And with spectrum, more cooperation in spectrum allocation is not a technical issue. It's about getting high quality – and decently priced – connectivity, and new services.

Our citizens want the best the internet can offer, they want an internet that is safe and accessible to everybody. This is not a reality in Europe today.

There is even more work to do to achieve a truly connected digital single market. A market where every consumer is able to enjoy digital content and services - wherever they are in the EU, including government services. It means every company should be able to share and sell its wares to a market of 500 million, using seamless online channels.

Today, a small business trying to spread across the EU faces 28 rules for consumer protection, data protection, contract law, tax rates. Consumers trying to buy online face endless barriers.

And it just costs too much, both for consumers and businesses. I want to see more efficient parcel delivery across Member States and to tackle e-commerce. I want to make sure we can do online what is possible offline. This is why I have proposed a set of initiatives to my fellow Commissioners and committed to focus on six main areas of work that I will steer and coordinate in my role as Vice-President.

A first area of our work will be about building trust and confidence in the online world. As I said during my European Parliament hearing last month, both these issues matter a great deal to me. They are vital if a Digital Single Market is to exist in Europe and function properly.

This means moving further on consumer rights, ensuring that the consumer rights directive is fully implemented but also simplifying and modernising rules for online purchases and digital products. It also means concluding negotiations on data protection rules and cyber-security.

Another work area relates to removing restrictions and preventing new ones from appearing. One particular area to address will involve putting a stop to blocking of online consumers based on their location or residence. This will be about reforming and modernising copyright rules and getting rid of unjustified curbs on transfer and access to digital assets.

Again, as I said during my hearing, I am committed to getting rid of geo-blocking. This goes against the core principles of Europe's Single Market.

Our other areas of work will aim to guarantee online access, connectivity and investment; build the digital economy and making the Digital Single Market matter to businesses and their opportunities.

In your resolution, you addressed non-discrimination when using search engines. I agree that we need to address this issue: search engines are a key part of the development of the Digital Single Market. We should discuss a broad range of measures, starting with transparency, self-preference and vertical services in this area.

There are also competition tools to address this issue. The Commission will remain vigilant when it comes to competition law infringements that hamper the Digital Single Market. Commissioner Vestager will decide how to proceed with the ongoing investigation into Google's business practices, once she has heard those who are most directly affected by such practices.

I also want to promote e-society, ensure that our citizens have the skills needed to get ahead in the digital age and stimulate digital innovation and research to keep Europe a world ICT leader.

I know you also have more ideas. Thank you for setting them out: we will examine them very closely.

Our timetable is ambitious. In 2015, the Commission will present its strategy and prepare corresponding measures based on a clear assessment of the most urgent obstacles to be removed.

We won't overcome these obstacles by words – or by weak rules. Better regulation means efficient rules, minimum burdens for business and consumers, effective competition and high-quality services across pan-European markets.

There are different ways to achieve that – harmonisation, mutual recognition, "country of origin". These are principles the Single Market was built on. The same must apply online. I have made this principle clear in my hearing and I will fight for it.

That is what we need to achieve. We have the political steer, from the European Council, from President Juncker, and from this Parliament. Now we need action: and the determination to deliver a fully functional Digital Single Market.

The benefits of a Digital Single Market are 260 billion euros a year, potentially more. Imagine ending those barriers, making this a benefit to Europe, not the cost of non-Europe.

This is the jolt that our economy needs and the opportunity our citizens want. It is not something we should turn our backs on. It is what we can build with a Digital Single Market. We have a great opportunity and should make the best of it.

Closing statement

Mr President, honourable Members,

I would like to thank you for this debate. The resolution covers the key and critical points needed for the development of a fully functional Digital Single Market.

I can only support your call to the Council to open negotiations on the Telecoms Single Market. It is a crucial building block towards a European market that fits the needs of our citizens.

Barriers will not fall easily, but ensuring the implementation of existing instruments [such as the Consumer Rights Directive], and the full enforcement of our rules, including competition rules, will guarantee fair competition, bring more transparency in the market and reduce administrative burden.

Our Single Market needs to further modernise consumer rules and copyright but it also needs to adapt for the technologies ready to come on the market in the near future – like big data, cloud computing, the Internet of Things.

We have an ambitious agenda and I look forward to working closely with the European Parliament on the development of the Digital Single Market. Thank you for all your ideas for how to achieve this goal.

Thank you for your attention.



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