The Group of the European People’s Party has taken a consumer centric approach in their position paper on the Digital Economy. The first assumption of their recently agreed strategy is that the Digital Economy is the cornerstone of growth and employment in the EU.
The EPP articulates their strategy for delivering the maximum benefit to citizens and businesses around four priorities: consumers, market cohesion, infrastructure and intellectual property rights. What do they stand for?
They believe that consumers should enjoy freedom of choice for which an appropriate framework needs to be developed. Thus, they support the development of an Open Internet and making room for innovative business models. This approach include other policies such as ending with the deliberate non-interoperability of systems and guaranteeing the portability of people’s digital lives or ensuring same rules apply online as offline.
Their viewpoint on market cohesion is based on the principles of reliability, fairness and transparency. Therefore, they advocate for a proportionate regulatory framework that enables a level playing field, tackles the current bottlenecks and avoids regulatory asymmetries.
In this context the definition of markets and actors plays a significant role. They expand a telecom-centric view of the market to include the full internet value chain that also embraces application stores, operating systems, payment services and search engines. The EPP aims to reach balanced solutions to key challenges such as roaming, spectrum and net neutrality by finalizing the Telecom Single Market proposal during 2015 and reviewing the Electronic Communication Regulatory framework.
Infrastructure and industry are also prerequisites for Europe’s competitiveness. The rapid growth of data traffic poses significant challenges for broadband infrastructure, requiring decisive allocation of spectrum and substantial investment in infrastructure. For this to happen, a framework recognizing and rewarding the risk undertaken by private investors in the development of such infrastructure has to be implemented. On top of that, they consider even more crucial to close the digital divide and foster investments in remote areas.
Beyond infrastructure, EPP wants European ICT to be globally competitive. So, they support telecom operators and ISPs adopting a pan-European approach. This would also require setting right framework conditions and an adequate regulatory environment, while actively strengthening and incentivizing the digitalization of other industries.
Finally, they highlight the importance of Intellectual property rights, copyright and content for the creative industry which shall be pushed forward to stimulate economic growth. If we really aim to achieve growth and wealth in Europe, they believe that the policies should allow the digital technologies and creative industries mutually grow.
This issue is at the center of the European and global deliberation as the new wave of innovation will challenge the current legal frameworks. In any case, they stand for the promotion of Europe’s cultural diversity as a priority, and support a high level of copyright protection and the remuneration of authors. However it should be done keeping a balanced approach as regards the objective of access to cultural good and knowledge in the public interest.
The completion of the Digital Single Market is highlighted as EPP’s top priority in their working agenda. They are convinced that then citizens would enjoy a larger variety of cross-border services and businesses would have an easier access to cross-border markets and would stimulate creation of innovative services. At the same time, barriers between Member States must be removed, overcoming legal fragmentation and expanding local markets into a unique and entire European market giving the consumers a wider choice. In this regard they advocate for the adoption of the Network Information Security Directive and a comprehensive and realistic Data Protection framework that would increase Europe’s competitiveness while delivering effective online privacy are essential tools for the completion of the DSM.
The European Commission shall present a strategy on the Digital Single Market by spring, and the EPP Group is leading the way by presenting their digital route. Now, action by the European Commission is needed to truly achieve these ambitious and bold proposals.