The European Commission’s vice president for the digital single market, Andrus Ansip, said he is “worried” about the direction that negotiations over the Telecoms Single Market package have taken in the European Council, where member states appear divided on the issue.
The package was proposed by the European Commission in September 2013 and includes action on roaming charges, coordinating spectrum licensing for wireless broadband, net neutrality and provisions to make it easier for consumers to switch service providers.
The package received a thumbs up from the European Parliament and is now in its final legislative stage, which involves negotiations between the Commission and member states in the European Council. Negotiations go on today (27 November)
“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,” said Ansip (pictured), speaking last night to a plenary session of the parliament. “But I am worried about the direction that the Telecoms Single Market negotiations have taken in the Council, where member states are divided,” he said.
“The Telecoms Single Market is an essential building block of the Digital Single Market. Without it, we cannot achieve the rest.”
Ansip claimed the benefits of a Digital Single Market are €260 billion a year, “potentially more… Imagine ending those barriers, making this a benefit to Europe, not the cost of non-Europe.”
Addressing specific issues, he said: “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.”
“What kind of Digital Single Market would we build without decent solutions on roaming, net neutrality and, more importantly, on spectrum?” he asked.
Ansip and Guenther Oettinger, the EU Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, have jointly taken on the role previously held by EU digital commissioner Neelie Kroes.
Ansip said his aim is that companies are able to share and sell products to a market of 500 million in the EU, using seamless online channels.
However, at the moment when small businesses try to expand across the EU, they face 28 rules regarding issues like consumer protection, data protection and tax rates, while consumers shopping online face “endless barriers”, he said.
Ansip highlighted several areas in which work is needed, including building trust and confidence in the online world, removing restrictions such as online consumers being blocked based on their location and non-discrimination when using search engines.
“We should discuss a broad range of measures, starting with transparency, self-preference and vertical services,” while remaining vigilant of competition law infringements, he said.
“Our Single Market needs to modernise consumer rules and copyright and also adapt for the technologies ready to come on the market in the near future – like big data, cloud computing, the Internet of Things,” he concluded.