Council Issues DSM Scorecard While Commission Turns Up the Heat

Posted on 23rd May 2018

It was a story of two documents in the Brussels bubble last week, one from the European Commission, one from the outgoing Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU, and both with key insights into the success of the EU’s flagship Digital Single Market strategy.

The Digital Single Market, a hoped-to-be transformative project involving ambitious, wide-ranging interventions into eCommerce, digital communications and data, has been behind some of the highest profile and most popular EU policy efforts, such as the elimination of intra-EU roaming charges. However, the European Commission is getting frustrated with the logjam of digital files which still need to be agreed by the Parliament and Council before entering into law.

European elections take place in May 2019, which imposes a hard deadline: if a file isn’t agreed by then, there is a six-month delay while the elections take place, after which negotiations have to start from scratch. In a bid to move things along a bit, the Commission published a Communication asking member states to speed up discussions. Notably, the Communication took aim at the stalled ePrivacy Regulation, urging the council to “swiftly” agree their position in order to start full negotiations by June 2018, and aim for adoption by the end of the year.

Given the recent outcry about mistreatment of EU citizen’s data in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, this urgency is understandable, but could be counterproductive. Given the manifest legal pitfalls with the Commission’s original proposal, and potentially severe unintended consequences for a variety of digital services, haste could prevent full assessment and amendment by member states.

State of play of Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy

Separately, the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU has issued a handy state of play document, giving a run-down of progress on each of the Digital Single Market files and some thoughts on the likelihood of reaching agreement by the Commission’s preferred deadline of March next year.

The document gives three broad categories: files with completed negotiations, those where agreement is imminent, and those where negotiations have no immediate prospect of a breakthrough. The document’s update on the ePrivacy Regulation conveys the slow pace and complexity of negotiations, but unlike the Commission, the Presidency does not exhort delegations to expedite discussions and recognises the difficulty in reaching an agreement in trilogue — if negotiations even get that far.

A scorecard of the key digital files to still to be negotiated under the DSM strategy would look something like this:

European Electronic Communications Code 70% completed  
ePrivacy Regulation 50% completed  
Copyright Directive 60% completed  
Free Flow of Data Regulation 70% completed  
Cybersecurity Act 70% completed  
Platform to Business Regulation 50% completed  

This file was published in April of this year, so discussions are not well advanced. However, the Presidency is confident that a general approach could be possible before the end of 2018, paving the way for trilogue talks. The Presidency notes, however, that the Parliament has not signalled its position on this file in any detail yet. If this is markedly different from the original text or the Council position, it will be difficult to reach agreement before the European elections.

Author: Matt Allison, Manager, Public Policy, Access Partnership

Back to document archive