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2016, what do you have in your policy pockets?

25 January 2016

Author: OpenForum Europe

The Brussels bubble quickly got lively after the Christmas and New Year break. Pressure came from several deadlines for public consultations, and anxiety is in the air – both this month, and in the following ones – relating to high-level agreements that will affect businesses and upcoming legislative proposals with impact on the digital world that will keep all eyes on the EU’s institutions.

January 4 was the deadline for the public consultation on ICT Standards, January 6 closed the public consultation on online platforms, cloud & data, liability of intermediaries & the collaborative economy, and January 22 marked the end of the public consultation on the eGovernment Action Plan for 2016-2020. OFE sent a response to each of them, together with some accompanying policy recommendations (available in our Library).

All these public consultations are part of the Digital Single Market framework. The Commission will have to deliver on 16 key actions by the end of 2016, according to its strategy released in May 2015. On those same actions, the European Parliament has very recently presented its input through the Digital Single Market Act, adopted last week in the plenary, with 551 votes in favour and 88 against. Through what seemed a fruitful collaboration, the two rapporteurs (MEP Kallas (ITRE) and MEP Gebhardt (IMCO)) reached a final balanced outcome, covering issues from online platforms, copyright, and intermediaries’ liability to free flow of data, eGovernment, cybersecurity and the shared economy. In many of its requests, the EP asks for evidence when new measures are considered by the Commission, as well as conducting impact assessments of such measures.

January is now almost behind us already, and everyone is closely following whether a Safe Harbour 2.0 Agreement can be reached. Although the self-imposed deadline of 31 January is fast approaching, recent negotiations in Davos seemingly did not produce the desired progress. The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has decided to delay voting on the Judicial Redress Act — an important element of the negotiations — and so there’s a risk that thousands of businesses across Europe and the U.S. will continue to be kept in legal limbo.

On the cloud front, a new Commission study on data location restrictions for cross-border data flow was launched this month. time.lex and Spark Legal Network, which won the tender and have previously been involved in the cloud SLAs and Code of Conduct work, are now preparing the raw data and the first analysis, which should be made available in June 2016, with the final study report planned for the end of this year.

Standardisation followers should also have a busy time, with the development of an EU catalogue of standards, an action foreseen in the the Digital Single Market Strategy. The stated objective here is to support and encourage public procurers to mention ICT standards and specifications in their calls for proposals. The study is just starting, with an analysis of existing national catalogues, and will continue – through the organisation of workshops and surveys with key stakeholders – throughout 2016. So, stay tuned for more updates on this front! The impact assessment is planned for the end of the year, with publication of final results foreseen for the first trimester of 2017.

2016 looks like being rather a busy year, with several EU legislative proposals and the adoption of new policy measures.

Other milestones to come in 2016: first, later this month we expect the publication of the roadmap for the policy options of the free flow of data initiative (which was postponed from December). The formal agreements of the GDPR and NIS Directive have to be voted in plenary and also formally approved by the Council later this year. April should see the publication of the new eGovernment Action Plan, and the launch of the accompanying FUTURIUM platform. May is ear-marked for the proposal of a regulation on consumer protection and for the package of parcel delivery and geo-blocking. June will again be busy, with the copyright legislative proposal as announced in the Commission’s Communication (more details in a previous blog post) and a proposal on the role of online platforms, including efforts regarding illegal content online. July will be focused on cybersecurity and the private-public partnership. And in November the focus will be on the free flow of data initiative and the review of the e-privacy Directive. The heads-up concerning this timetable was given by Vice-President Ansip during the EP plenary session last week. Hopefully the Commission will be able to maintain this ambitious pace.

2016 therefore looks like being rather a busy year, with several EU legislative proposals and the adoption of new policy measures – and OFE is preparing for all that’s in store on those fronts.

At the same time, we’d also like to announce some recent changes in our team. Maël Brunet, former OFE Director in charge of European Policy & Government Relations, has moved on to follow another career path, and I have taken the role of interim Head of Office and Head of Policy and Research. OFE’s entire team thanks Maël for his invaluable contribution.

Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves, and dig deep into those policy pockets…


Picture under CC BY 2.0 Philippe Put