Autumn in Brussels: so little time, so much to do

09 November 2016

Author: Sachiko Muto

Just a month into my new role at OFE and I am reminded of how short autumn is in Brussels. After the lull of August, September is full of buzz and promise, and then sometime by mid-October it’s time to start worrying about achieving anything before the place starts to slow down for Christmas.

So, with November already upon us, I wanted to provide an overview of the topics that are keeping us busy in OFE. In future posts, my colleagues will return in more detail to some of the more salient issues.

It’s all about data at the moment. Commissioner Ansip talks about the power of data to transform our societies, urging Europe not to be “afraid” of it. MEPs are calling for the free flow of data to be seen as the “fifth freedom of the Single Market”. These are strong words. The Commission clearly wants to do something substantial to unleash this innovative power, while some stakeholders claim there is no need for regulatory intervention because there is no evidence of market failure. In the meantime, Member States have concerns about privacy and security.  Needless to say, all eyes are on the Commission’s next steps on the free flow of data initiative, which will be in two parts: the emerging issues (access to data, ownership of data, data producer rights, liability) and the data location restrictions. At this point, the Communication on emerging issues, which was originally foreseen for November, is expected in January 2017. Watch this space.

On Cloud computing there is inter- and intra-institutional controversy brewing. The Commission Communication on a European Open Science Cloud created some confusion by not relating to or aligning with the Commission’s other activities in the areas, such as the C-SIGs. Then there is the Parliament’s own initiative report on the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC), where the draft by MEP Jean-Luc Schaffhauser is an open attack on the Commission’s Cloud Initiative and on foreign companies in Europe. The draft report has led the shadow rapporteur MEP Michal Boni, in coalition with ALDE and S&D, to respond with 120 amendments that all but undo the original report. OFE is planning a December roundtable to bring some much needed clarity in this area and aim to move the discussion forward.

When it comes to standardisation, a longstanding core concern of OFE, we are hard at work on a new White Paper on ICT standardisation. With the Standardisation Package II now being discussed in the EP, the complexities and concerns that are specific to standardisation in ICT are once again in need of being explained. We plan to follow up with a series of events in and around Parliament.

We have also started work on a project aimed at improving the integration of Cloud open source communities in standardisation processes. The proposal takes as a (novel) starting point the needs of the Open Source software development project and their recognition (or not) of the need and opportunity to develop internally required APIs into Open Standards, which would maximise their long term relevance and effective use in the market.

On copyright: following the largely negative reactions to the Commission’s proposal, the procedure now moves to co-decision with MEP Comodini Cachia confirmed as the EP rapporteur. For OFE, the main focus is on text and data mining, the new press publishers’ right, intermediary liability and content filtering. OFE has already organised a series of informative briefings in the Parliament on issues related to copyright reform and we are planning further events on particularly salient issues.

In a previous blogpost we said we expect the policy focus to be substantially extended and our policy inputs to increase through white papers, round tables, briefings, project work, and commercial services.  Other issues that currently have our attention: public procurement, EIF, eGov Action Plan, NIS Directive implementation, e-Privacy Directive, blockchain. In all of these areas, OFE, as the think tank for openness in ICT, promotes dialogue and a balance of opinions. Our aim, as always, is to ensure that new technologies and initiatives do not lead to new forms of lock-in.

And as always, we are open to your input. Please feel free to get in touch with me if you have suggestions or if want to know more about OFE activities: