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What the Internet Needs to Know About the New EU Commission

  • date icon September 12, 2014
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While Washington D.C. focused on net neutrality and the FCC, this week in Brussels saw a new EU Commission lineup emerge under the Presidency of former Luxembourg Prime Minister, Jean-Claude Juncker. Although the exact Commissioner lineup remains fluid pending confirmation by the EU Parliament  – a similar process to Senate confirmation here in the U.S. – President-elect Juncker has wasted no time setting out his blueprint for the new Commission, its priorities, and its goals.  Included here are several initiatives that will impact the Internet beyond the EU’s borders.  Overall, signs are that Juncker recognizes that the Internet can play an important role in economic recovery and growth in the EU, and that the Commission should treat the Internet with a light touch.

First, Juncker has directed his incoming Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Gunther Oettinger, to create legislation to remove barriers to “a connected Digital Single Market” within the first six months of the Commission’s term.  Concrete(ish) steps include modernization of the EU copyright rules; providing a legal and regulatory framework that “drives start-ups, the take-up of new businesses, and job creation.” With respect to global Internet governance, Juncker calls for “a global governance architecture for the Internet which is legitimate, transparent, accountable, sustainable, and inclusive.  This includes ensuring the Internet remains open, a driving force for innovation and an international resource that benefits the European economy and citizens.”

Second, it looks likely that U.S. trade negotiators will see some movement on TTIP in the near future.  Juncker has mandated his incoming trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmstrom, to work towards a “reasonable and balanced [TTIP],” stating that the Commission’s aim in the negotiations “must be to conclude [them] on a reciprocal and mutually beneficial basis.”  

Finally, on Safe Harbor and EU data protection reform, Juncker has set an aggressive – and, many believe, unrealistic – deadline of six months for his new Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip.  Specifically, Ansip’s mandate calls for him to “oversee, during the first six months, the conclusion of negotiations on the reform of Europe’s data protection rules as well as the review of the Safe Harbor arrangement with the U.S.”

Time will tell whether the Juncker Commission will be a good or a bad thing for the Internet.  But judging from his intentions going into office, at least for now, he appears to an advocate for the Internet’s capacity to create jobs and growth in a sluggish EU economy.