Earlier today, the new EU Commission received the green light from the EU Parliament to begin its work on November 1. The Commission initiates and drafts legislation for the 28 member state EU, and also negotiates key trade agreements such as TTIP. Each of the 28 member states appoints a Commissioner.
Starting November 1, the Commission will operate under a two tier seniority system. Five Vice Presidents will report directly to the Commission President – Juncker. All other Commissioners will report into one of the Vice Presidents.
The Vice President with most impact on the Internet will be Andrus Ansip. Ansip was Estonia’s Prime Minister during the 2007 cyber attacks on that country and is reassuringly familiar with Internet policy and technology in general. Estonia was an early Internet adopter, even by global standards. The country has the highest Internet penetration rate in the world, and was the first country to roll out online voting back in 2005.
At his confirmation hearing before the EU Parliament earlier this month, Ansip highlighted several policy planks that he wants to tackle during his tenure. His overarching goal is to advance the integration and harmonization of EU national laws in order to achieve an EU wide “digital single market.” Included in this process is the removal of trade barriers between the member states.
Here are some specific policy planks we can expect to hear more about in the coming months and years:
Single EU movie market (just don’t tell the French): The current patchwork of national copyright laws creates geo blocking challenges for streaming services such as Netflix. Ansip expressed concern that geo blocking is a barrier to a single EU market.
Good news for online retailers: Online retailers have faced challenges penetrating the EU market. Ansip attributed online retail’s slow growth – only 5% of total retail sales – to local trade barriers preventing the free flow of goods between EU member states.
Broadband access: Currently, only 25% of EU citizens and 4% of the rural population can access 4G in their homes. Ansip expressed concern about this penetration rate, adding that the EU “needs to create a less fragmented market to increase demand and incentivize private companies to make necessary investments.” This was a nod to EU legislation harmonizing member states’ approach to issues such as spectrum.
Privacy and Cyber Security: Ansip has personal experience of cyber attacks. He also expressed support for ongoing efforts to overhaul the EU data protection regime in the near term.
Open Government and Big Data: Estonia runs many public services online and Ansip supports public-private partnerships to open up government data to the private sector for use in big data analytics.
Though only a few decades old, the Internet is a significant driver of economic growth around the world. Welcoming the most innovative Internet companies to do business in Europe is the best interest of the E.U. and its member countries.