OPP Meeting Summary: Telecommunications Council – Implementing the Digital Single Market Strategy: Follow-up to European Council and Tallinn Digital Summit (24 October 2017)

A summary of the policy debate is available.

Telecommunications Council – 24 October 2017
2. Implementing the Digital Single Market Strategy: Follow-up to European Council and Tallinn Digital Summit (29 September 2017)
= Policy debate
(Public debate in accordance with Article 8(2) of the Council’s Rules of Procedure)
13303/17 TELECOM 238 COMPET 675 AUDIO 112 DIGIT 211 RECH 335 MI 718 PI 120 IND 259 ECOFIN 834 ENER 406 DATAPROTECT 159 CYBER 151 JUSTCIV 243 EJUSTICE 126 CULT 121 EDUC 370 CONSOM 322


Estonian Presidency 

  • there was a little over a year left for the full implementation of the Digital Single Market (DSM);
  • the European Council of 19 and 20 October 2017 had given more specific guidelines, and that heads of state and government would themselves examine the issues the Council was not able to fully settle;
  • several agreements needed to be reached by the end of 2017, including on the proposals the audiovisual media services Directive (AVMS), geo-blocking and parcel delivery;
  • the Telecommunications Council would also prioritise the connectivity package and the free flow of data. The files should be concluded by the Bulgarian Presidency;
  • the afternoon session would be devoted to the Tallinn Declaration on e-Government and how to work on cybersecurity;
  • investment was necessary in digital research and development;
  • the European Council had asked the Council to examine new issues such as artificial intelligence and blockchain.

Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, Mr Andrus Ansip 

  • since the beginning of its mandate, the Commission had presented 44 initiatives, including 24 legislative initiatives, but only 6 have so far been adopted;
  • work needed to be intensified, which was why he would be presenting a roadmap for the three Presidencies in order to assist them with completing the DSM by the end of 2018;
  • the proposals on the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC), ePrivacy, parcel delivery, cybersecurity and the free flow of non-personal data were all essential building-blocks for the DSM;
  • looking ahead to the discussion on connectivity, he stated that more work needed to be done on spectrum. “The vision of 5G would not become reality” without better coordination proposed in the EECC;
  • an agreement on the EECC needed to be reached as soon as possible;
  • he was expecting progress on parcel delivery;
  • political guidance would be needed on more complicated proposals such as ePrivacy. He suggested a general approach on ePrivacy should be reached at the December Telecommunications Council;
  • although the proposal on the free flow of non-personal data was new, issues related to it had been discussed. Unjustified forced data localisation needed to be urgently addressed. He called on the Council to close the file by December;
  • there were other important files not within the remit of the Council which were crucial for the completion of the DSM, such as the e-commerce proposals aimed at facilitating cross-border trade;
  • the key obstacle to unlocking the potential of e-commerce was geo-blocking. He hoped that the current deadlock in the Council could be overcome.

Luxembourg

  • he suggested that the Council should meet much more regularly to ensure full progress;
  • he believed that the digital agenda was a cross-cutting and horizontal competence;
  • fragmentation across the different Council configurations should be avoided;
  • cross-border portability of content, the end of roaming and WIFI4EU were concrete successes for the European citizens;
  • regarding taxation, he stated that he was not defending Luxembourg’s interests but Europe’s which is why he had asked for a global playing field;
  • the EECC would be the backbone of the whole system and Luxembourg entrusted the current and upcoming Presidencies to be “firm and constructive” in the discussions with the Parliament;
  • regarding geo-blocking and AVMS, he stated that the discussions were adding complexities for SMEs and not solving them;
  • he thanked the Commission for the proposal on the free flow of non-personal data and Luxembourg would strive to maintain a high level of ambition throughout the negotiations.

Finland

  • she agreed that more ambition was necessary for completing the DSM but the quality of legislation could not be compromised;
  • an assessment needed to be made on whether the DSM could actually be achieved by the proposals;
  • the DSM should enable and support innovation. Regulations needed to be future-ready;
  • to ensure a level-playing field between new and traditional market players, existing legislation should be repealed and updated, instead of extended to new digital services. This was particularly the case for online platforms and the sharing economy;
  • the data economy was a top priority for Finland. The proposal on free flow of data was a good starting point, but more ambition was necessary. She believed that data access and interoperability were among the most pressing issues;
  • she called for the creation of a clear framework on data producer and user rights and interoperability that could be implemented in the relevant sectors;
  • regarding the EECC, Finland was concerned about the direction in which the proposal was developing. There was a real risk of over-regulating the well-working market of electronic communications services;
  • the EU needed simpler VAT rules for online businesses, as well as lower VAT rates for electronic services such as e-publications;
  • artificial intelligence needed to be addressed. It had become a core element of digitisation;
  • the European approach to artificial intelligence should aim to identify new and emerging business activities and to understand the implications for society. The EU should work together on addressing robotics and artificial intelligence.

Germany 

  • he stressed the issue of digitisation was political from every angle. It was going to be the main task of the EU for the coming years;
  • Europe needed future-ready high speed networks. The infrastructure needed to be there to make it possible;
  • Germany was willing to cooperate on distributing frequencies but there needed to be better coordination across the EU;
  • he agreed with the statements made by Finland on the need to review existing regulation;
  • regulation was not put in place to restrict competition but to make investments possible. The German delegation had made some suggestions about the role of innovation in this area;
  • he stated that digitisation would not occur without start-ups. Europe needed growth-financing;
  • the EU needed appropriate tax provisions. Tax dumping could not be allowed;
  • a common initiative on cybersecurity was needed that would apply to companies and users. Cybersecurity was one of the main obstacles faced by SMEs when trying to digitise;
  • the Council needed to jointly agree on the qualifications necessary for the completion of the DSM in the employment sector;
  • digital industry policy regarding artificial intelligence and robotics was necessary;
  • the proposals on geo-blocking and AVMS needed progress but he believed that concrete definitions needed to be found first;
  • regarding the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC), Germany believed that an understanding could be reached by June 2018;
  • he concluded that faster and better decision-making was necessary.

Spain 

  • developing Europe’s infrastructure was crucial. State aid for fixed networks needed to be improved, especially for remote areas;
  • there was too much uncertainty about the economic results that 5G would deliver;
  • he stated that geo-blocking could not be permitted in the internal market;
  • Europe had to invest in its own companies in order to make the digitisation of industry a success;
  • Europe did not have a banking system which was prepared to take on risks associated with the digital economy. There were also real shortcomings in education and training, and a qualification scheme was necessary. He agreed that structural funds could be used for this;
  • serious thought needed to be given to regulating online platforms. E-commerce needed to develop in the EU;
  • he suggested that a proposal should be made on how to link digital and traditional economies;
  • the proposal on the free flow of data was could help in developing a digital framework for copyright and intellectual property rights;
  • he concluded that much more progress could be made regarding the digitisation of taxation.

Poland

  • the proposals on EECC and the free flow of data were complimentary and had to be implemented as soon as possible in 2018;
  • Poland hoped that the Estonian Presidency would be able to reach an ambitious general approach regarding the free flow of data by the end of the year;
  • regarding the EECC, he stated that national flexibilities had to be maintained on radio spectrum;
  • cybersecurity was important for Poland;
  • the fact that the work had to be speeded up should not affect the quality of the decisions on the EECC;
  • the priorities adopted in the European Council should be shared by all the EU institutions, and Poland encouraged the Commission and the Parliament to cooperate in a constructive manner;
  • he believed that the implementation process of the DSM should be managed both by the Member States and the institutions.

France

  • he agreed with Luxembourg and stated that the Council should meet more regularly to fully achieve the DSM;
  • regarding online platforms, he stated that there were two extremes: either doing nothing or creating European regulations. France supported the Commission’s approach;
  • regarding taxation, France wanted to focus on creating a level playing field and the emergence of new players;
  • he denied that France had been blocking progress on certain issues, and stated that France would be playing an active role in implementing the DSM.

Ireland

  • Ireland strongly welcomed the Commission’s proposal on the free flow of data, which Ireland and other Member States had repeatedly called for;
  • the removal of forced data localisation requirements was fundamental for European start-ups and SMEs. The Council needed to send a clear message to investors and SMEs that the EU was the place to start and grow businesses;
  • he stressed that the free flow of data proposal should not be watered down, and the Council should aim for the completion of the file by mid-2018;
  • any investments in the telecoms sector needed to be compatible with the long-term objective of effective competition in the market. Ireland welcomed the ability for Member States to set speeds under the universal service obligation;
  • the extension of the scope of the EECC was risky. Regulating sections of the market without the proper evidence would stifle innovation;
  • any future legislation on online platforms should be evidence based;
  • Ireland was fully committed to completing the DSM on time. However, he stressed that the ePrivacy proposal should be carefully considered, and not rushed to “meet the Commission imposed” deadline of May 2018. Quality mattered more than speed.

Portugal

  • Portugal had always been supportive of the objectives of the DSM;
  • he stated that the deadline of June 2018 for the EECC had to be met, regardless of the impact on the quality of the legislation;
  • the trilogues on the EECC were an opportunity to strengthen the proposal to ensure market security, which was essential for investments in high speed networks and connectivity;
  • regarding spectrum, he stated that Portugal was one of the first Member States to show an “open attitude” to the issue of minimum duration of licenses;
  • the conclusion of the proposal on cross-border parcel delivery services needed to be a priority;
  • he hoped for an early agreement on AVMS with the Parliament. It was a complex file but the general approach had to be respected.

Slovakia

  • digital developments such as automation, artificial intelligence and the collaborative economy were driving the future of Europe’s economy and society;
  • regulators needed to embrace the emerging technological trends that were calling into question the already established legal frameworks;
  • Slovakia wanted to prioritise political agreement with the Parliament on the ongoing proposals such as the EECC and cross-border parcel deliveries. Momentum in the Council discussions on ePrivacy and BEREC should be maintained;
  • regarding ePrivacy, she stated that the final outcome had to be balanced. It needed to provide legal certainty but not be burdensome;
  • she stated that the quality of the legislation should not be sacrificed in order to arrive at a political deal;
  • more time and energy would need to be devoted to the proposal on free flow of data and cybersecurity;
  • she suggested that one Council formation should be designated as the coordinator on all DSM initiatives. Ambassadors and Coreper should be also play a bigger role.

Sweden

  • regarding implementation, Member States needed to be given room for manoeuvre;
  • the ambitious timetable for the completion of the DSM should not be at the expense of high quality legislation;
  • the free flow of data, the EECC and provisions on 5G were particularly important;
  • 5G was a major opportunity for Europe. In order for the EU to become a leader, increased cooperation on spectrum was necessary.

Latvia

  • data was an essential part of the DSM. Latvia was prepared to start work on the free flow of data proposal immediately;
  • forced data localisation requirements had to be removed but rules on safety and responsibility were necessary;
  • good progress had been made but he believed some proposals would be difficult to conclude by the end of 2018. Speed over quality should not be prioritised;
  • he raised the issue of the digital contracts proposals. It was not clear in which direction they were heading;
  • Latvia believed that the compromise text on parcel delivery was satisfactory;
  • he expected balanced and detailed discussions on ePrivacy. He specifically mentioned the issue of data retention;
  • the trilogues on the EECC should not weaken the Council’s position on radio frequencies;
  • Latvia believed that an agreement on BEREC could be reached swiftly, if it was in line with the EECC on the issue of competences of the national regulatory authorities;
  • Latvia was expecting support and EU-level coordination from the Commission on the issue of online platforms.

Denmark

  • the agreements on roaming and 700 MHz band were concrete examples of cooperation to achieve tangible results;
  • continued investments in Europe’s digital infrastructure was essential. It was the most important step in achieving a true DSM;
  • the EECC should result in clear and predictable rules that promoted competition and investment in high speed and high capacity broadband. An agreement with the Parliament should be reached as soon as possible;
  • Denmark believed that the proposals on the free flow of data and ePrivacy should be prioritised.

Romania

  • the Commission’s support in promoting e-skills was particularly important;
  • Romania believed that rapid progress needed to be made on the geo-blocking and parcel delivery proposals;
  • the most recent compromise proposed by the Presidency on the EECC was balanced. During the trilogues, the Presidency should pay particular attention to the institutional aspects and national regulatory authority competences;
  • the financing of research and innovation should also be increased;
  • it was essential to abolish the digital divide.

Slovenia

  • the EECC needed to be completed as soon as possible, and the role of BEREC needed to be defined. This would create the framework for investments in high speed networks;
  • the work on the free flow of data needed to be started as soon as possible;
  • cybersecurity was crucial. It would ensure that European citizens and businesses were willing to share their data;
  • he stressed the importance of big data and artificial intelligence.

United Kingdom

  • priority needed to be given to the barriers to the data economy, such as unjustified data localisation requirements. EU’s global competitiveness depended on data flows;
  • the cybersecurity proposal was the second priority. It underpinned economic success;
  • regarding online platforms, the UK welcomed the guidelines published by the Commission in September. However she stressed that it should not be damaged by overregulation;
  • regarding ePrivacy, the UK would prioritise getting the right framework over speed for its own sake;
  • she concluded that the Telecommunications Council needed to take ownership of driving the implementation of the digital agenda.

Belgium

  • priority should be given to the proposals on geo-blocking, free flow of data and parcel delivery as they would have concrete impacts for European citizens and businesses;
  • Belgium believed that the proposal on the free flow of data was the cornerstone of the future of the data economy;
  • regarding the EECC, Belgium wanted to address the most politically sensitive issues first;
  • investments in the telecoms sector needed to be made in the interests of competition;
  • ePrivacy was a complex file and he called for caution. A thorough analysis of the issue needed to be conducted before coming to an agreement.

Czech Republic

  • reaching an agreement with the Parliament on EECC by June 2018 was the main priority;
  • the economic potential of cross-border e-commerce should not be forgotten. Agreement on parcel deliveries should be swiftly reached;
  • he believed the free flow of data proposal would boost competition and the development of innovative solutions by using big data;
  • effective cooperation on cybersecurity was crucial,
  • ePrivacy was a complex file and sufficient time needed to be given for thorough discussions in order to achieve a balanced legal text.

Italy

  • Italy hoped that agreement could be found on ePrivacy, AVMS, the free flow of data and parcel deliveries in 2018;
  • public-private investments should be incentivised by a robust legislative framework;
  • broadband infrastructure was crucial. New generation services could not exist without it.

Lithuania

  • the Council negotiations on EECC had showed that Member States were capable of cooperating on complex issues;
  • Lithuania believed that a compromise on the free flow of data was within reach;
  • Lithuania also supported the cybersecurity proposals and invited Member States to work closely together on the issue;
  • ePrivacy was also crucial for building consumer trust.

Malta

  • the right balance between speed and achieving quality legislation needed to be struck;
  • Malta believed that trilogues on parcel delivery should start as soon as possible, with a view to reaching an agreement by the end of the year;
  • the work on EECC and BEREC should continue at a steady pace;
  • regarding ePrivacy, Malta appreciated the Estonian Presidency’s efforts to speed up the progress on the file, but he noted that several delegations were still trying to understand the proposal at the Working Party stage.

Austria

  • the challenge was to keep quality in the legal texts and Austria would be focusing on this;
  • he stated that fairness in taxation mattered. There were several big online companies that made profits using personal data;
  • he also raised the issue of e-Government;
  • he stated that digitisation was a positive thing and that it could not be stopped;
  • more focus was needed on digital skills and qualifications and he asked for guidance from the Commission on this.

Croatia

  • smart and predicable rules were needed in order to take advantage of the new digital technologies. However rules should not hinder growth and innovation;
  • interoperability of public services should be encouraged. Member States should be digital by default;
  • Croatia believed that priority should be given to the proposals on EECC, BEREC and ePrivacy;
  • regarding EECC, technical issues should be separated from the political ones by the end of the year. The first trilogue with the Parliament would highlight the key topics;
  • the Council should establish its position on the legal characteristics of BEREC;
  • he stated that the Council needed a back-up plan in case the discussions on ePrivacy did not allow it to be implemented on time.

Hungary

  • Hungary welcomed the intention to modernise the AVMS. It was important to update the provisions;
  • he hoped that a reasonable compromise could be found on geo-blocking,and that trilogues on parcel delivery could start soon;
  • the priority proposals for Hungary were the EECC, BEREC and ePrivacy;
  • he welcomed the balanced compromise texts on access, services and spectrum  on the EECC. The independence of the national regulatory authorities was important for Hungary;
  • the proposal on free flow of data was complex as it had huge potential consequences for the data economy and Europe’s competitiveness.

Greece

  • stable regulatory frameworks were crucial for investments and European citizens;
  • he raised the issue of fair taxation of the digital economy.

The Netherlands

  • the European Council of March 2018 could give political guidance, while the Telecommunications Council should stimulate progress;
  • the challenges of digitisation beyond 2018 should also be discussed;
  • the EECC was an important milestone and he encouraged progress during the trilogues.

Cyprus

  • the EU needed to invest in infrastructure. The connectivity goals would strengthen social cohesion, especially in rural and remote areas;
  • digitisation had a huge impact on the demand and the life-cycle of skills. It was important to reinforce digital skills development;
  • the EU should facilitate the development of new employment models emerging from digital technologies;
  • a level playing field was absolutely necessary in order not to hamper Europe’s competitiveness;
  • taxation should be adapted to the digital era.

Bulgaria

  • in its forthcoming Presidency, Bulgaria would be actively working on the proposals for the free flow of data and cybersecurity.

Vice-President Ansip

  • he was surprised by the strong and broad support for the completion of the DSM and this momentum should continue;
  • artificial intelligence in the EU was connected to other issues such as the free flow of data and high performance computing;
  • business investments in connectivity had to be made more attractive;
  • he agreed Luxembourg that more meetings should take place.

Estonian Presidency 

  • the Council took note of the comments made by the Ministers and would take them into account when planning future work on the DSM.

Source: One Policy Place

The simultaneous interpretation of debates provided by the European Parliament serves only to facilitate communication amongst the participants in the meeting. It does not constitute an authentic record of proceedings. One Policy Place uses these translations so this text is only a guide and should not be relied on as an official account of the meeting. Only the original speech or the revised written translation of that speech is authentic.

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