20 Feb 2019

A strong and united Europe that reflects European values and thrives globally in an open economy

1. Build a strong European Union by strengthening the Single Market without regulatory fragmentation

The creation of the European Single Market is one of the most ambitious European projects and a pillar of the European Union. Today the Single Market for products is arguably the most open and accessible marketplace in the world. However, the Single Market for services is not complete, and is fragmented in several areas. Harmonisation at EU level is needed to ensure proper functioning.

Safeguarding and enhancing a functioning Single Market for products and substantially improving the situation for services is therefore of paramount importance for the future of the European Union. This means actively strengthening the attractiveness of the Single Market and counteracting globally protectionist tendencies. The European Union needs to simplify market access procedures and improve market surveillance to ensure high-levels of compliance and a safe marketplace for products and services for consumers and business alike. Where services are still fragmented, more harmonisation efforts will be needed to complete the Single Market project.

Finally, the Single Market has been a role model for other economies over decades with regard to access requirements and functioning, this role needs to be preserved, but this can be only done if the EU also “walks the global walk”.

By 2025, 15% of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) should be selling across borders

Revise the New Legislative Framework and ensure effective Market Surveillance

Product compliance in the EU risks becoming more burdensome with every legislative revision. Frequently new obligations are added when legislation is revised calling for more obligations rather than ensuring proper enforcement of existing legal provisions. 10 years after the establishment of the overarching framework for selling products in the EU, the New Legislative Framework (NLF), is in need of a careful, targeted update. Concretely we ask the European leaders to:

  • Revise the NLF, focusing on updating it by modernising and simplifying compliance procedures, e.g. by allowing alternatives to paper-based “analogue” procedures in order to realise and acknowledge the potential of digital means of information provision, such as electronic labelling (e-labelling).
  • Complete and ensure a timely approval of the Compliance and Enforcement regulation (“Goods Package”) to ensure that market surveillance activities in the EU are effective and increasingly harmonised. The main objective has to be that existing legislation fosters a high-level of compliance and creates a level-playing field that diligent manufacturers can take full advantage of while rogue traders and free-riders are decisively discouraged.


Safeguard the unique European Standardisation system (Harmonised Standards)

One of the most important means of complying with the legal requirements for selling in the Single Market for products is the availability of European “Harmonised Standards” (HS) listed in the EU Official Journal. HS are standards provided by the European Standardisation Organisations (ESOs), namely CEN, CENELEC and ETSI and allow industry to assess and declare product compliance, often without third-party involvement. This truly unique European system is rightly promoted by the European Commission globally as a cost efficient and safe way to ensure product compliance. however, the European system of Harmonised Standards has been in distress for years due to legal concerns, and risks becoming dysfunctional through the bottleneck in listing standards in the Official Journal (OJ) – thus “harmonising” them. This leads to major industry concerns, delays and a substantial cost increase for selling products in the EU across several major sectors. We therefore call on European leaders to:

  • Set up a task force to save the unique European System of Harmonised Standards. The objective of this task force has to be to urgently rectify the situation by reinstating the balance between necessary checks of standards approved by the ESOs at EC level and their swift publication in the OJ.


Achieve a real single market for audiovisual products and services

Product interoperability in the EU is becoming very convoluted not only due to complexity added with every legislative revision for product compliance (for example legislation on Radio Equipment, Energy Labelling, Ecodesign, etc.), but also due to the fact that several pieces of legislation give more freedom to Member States to adapt the core legislation. This is currently the case with the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) and the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC). This may result in 27 different flavours of the same rules. The different pace for introduction of technical norms (for example DVB-T, DVB-T2, MPEG4, HEVC, etc.) in the various Member States is already challenging for the industry. To achieve a real single market, we call on the European Commission to:

  • Ensure that the implementation of new directives at Member State level have no “hidden” technical impact on products (or services). This should be done in close cooperation and mutual trust. This is key for Europe’s competitiveness.
  • Ensure that the sum of the various directives targeting directly or indirectly the same product or service are not contradictory or adding disproportionate burden.


Realise the full potential of standardisation

Standardisation plays a crucial role in the effective operation of the Single Market, as fully recognised in Regulation on European Standardisation. This Regulation introduced an important addition to the European Standardisation System by creating the Multi-Stakeholder-Platform (MSP) for ICT standardisation. A key objective of the MSP is the evaluation of globally important and relevant ICT standards and specifications in support of European legislation, policies and public procurement. The MSP plays an important role in the ongoing provision of ICT specifications and standards for public procurement and the development of the EU Rolling Plan. The Rolling Plan is an annual review and assessment of EU policy needs for global ICT standardisation and adds significant value in assessing ongoing and stimulating further standardisation efforts on a global, but also European, level. It prevents European standardisation initiatives from ‘reinventing the wheel’, orients their efforts and provides valuable guidance. The MSP is a major step in recognising the importance of ICT standards and specifications produced by global fora and consortia. In order to take full advantage of existing and ongoing ICT standardisation on the global level, Europe should further invest in the MSP. Concretely we call on European leaders to:

  • Strengthen and further invest in the MSP as it provides a unique platform where European Commission, Member States and Industry meet to align views and needs on ICT standardisation.

Support global standards and specifications

As more and more legislation related to products and services impacts the ICT industry, we notice inconsistencies in defining technical requirements that support conformity with regulatory obligations – for example, codes of conduct and certification schemes developed outside the established standardisation process, which risk deviating from World Trade Organisation (WTO) Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) principles and creating new trade barriers. We call on European leaders to:

  • Support the development of global standards and specifications, as they provide the basis for fair competition while avoiding market distortions. These global standards should be developed in accordance with the principles of openness, transparency, inclusiveness, consensus, coherence, effectiveness, global relevance and impartiality.
  • Apply WTO TBT standardisation principles to develop voluntary technical requirements where legislation affects products or services.


Modernise the private copying levies framework

The current private copying levies framework in the EU faces incredible fragmentation and is completely outdated. As each Member State has gone in a different direction, manufacturers and importers of devices are confronted on a daily basis with high costs and complicated procedures. Many national implementations are in conflict with EU legislation and case law, lacking effective exemption and reimbursement options for business users. The tariffs collected levies and affected devices have no consistency and are not based on factual analysis, evidence and impact assessments, nor are tariffs reduced following the transition to modern media consumption via licensed and paid-for digital services (such as via streaming and subscriptions, which do not involve making copies). The problems stemming from this unbalanced, unclear and fragmented system further lead to litigation and ineffective remuneration, damaging rightsholders as well. We therefore call on the European Commission to:

  • Urgently plan a thorough review of the private copying levies framework, including an examination of the discrepancies, such as on business reimbursement and exemption, and a clarification of EU case law to ensure a more harmonised implementation. National systems should be based on evidence with common criteria and benchmarking, rather than the current disparate and conflicting regimes.

2. Promote digital leadership in public sector services across the EU

Existing and emerging technologies will play a critical role in the public sector. They will reduce administrative burdens and waste, accelerate efficiencies, and most importantly provide important solutions to societal challenges. Ensuring data is flowing across all Member States will allow citizens access and control over their data – for example health records or prescriptions. Ensuring these technologies are fully embraced and realise their potential, will require innovative policymaking such as the use of policy sandboxes where solutions can be tested, and benefits measured.

By 2025, 75% of EU citizens should be using eGovernment services

Promote secure public procurement

Increasing the overall level of cybersecurity in the EU must inevitably involve the public sector as a major buyer of ICT products and services. The public sector is on the front line of the cyber threat landscape, and security vulnerabilities could expose critical information and citizens’ personal data. While upcoming cybersecurity certification schemes may help in this respect, there is currently no overarching policy to help public sector bodies procure secure solutions. To this end, we call on the European Commission to:

  • Publish a Buying Secure Handbook offering guidance to help public authorities buy products and services while taking cybersecurity considerations into account. The handbook could build on similar initiatives in the area of Green Public Procurement (GPP) and would outline the possibilities for pursuing secure public procurement under the 2014 Procurement Directives. It is important to ensure that industry and other relevant stakeholders are closely involved.
  • Utilise existing structures at EU level, such as the Commission’s cooperation with the Central Purchasing Bodies (CPBs) Public Procurement Network, to foster best-practice sharing amongst national central procurement bodies on procuring cyber-secure products and services.
  • Increase use of the Most Economically Advantageous Tender (MEAT) principle as award criterion instead of lowest price as a way to increase Europe’s ability to use public procurement to promote digital leadership in the public sector.


Ensure access to the free flow of health data to provide patient-centric care

The European Commission has demonstrated an ambition in its Health and Care Communication to facilitate free flow of health data including Electronic Health Records, genomic information for research, disease prevention and personalised care and generally to give citizens the right to access and share their health data. Access to data and interoperability are critical for the success of patient-centric care. To support this effort, DIGITALEUROPE asks the European Commission to:

  • Engage with Member States to assess the impact of GDPR implementation on the healthcare sector and to ensure, across the EU, the highest level of coherence with regard to the processing of genetic and health data.
  • Address the interoperability issue via a common approach to electronic health records and genomic data.
  • Support the idea of an EU-wide educational campaign on the benefits of and mechanisms for health data sharing to break down misconceptions and support the actions put forward by the Communication.


Provide innovative policy and regulatory approaches for innovative digital health solutions

Digital health solutions have the potential to revolutionise how citizens manage their wellbeing and health, how patients manage their treatments day-to-day, and improve the effectiveness of health systems. Wearables, m-health medical device software, machine learning and AI applied to health, are all existing and promising answers to old health issues, spearheaded by a broader set of actors in the market.

This view is wholeheartedly embraced by the Commission in its April 2018 Communication on Digital Transformation of Health and Care in the Digital Single Market, particularly its third pillar on citizens’ empowerment. The time has come to put these into action.

In this light, DIGITALEUROPE calls on the European Commission to help national health systems and regulators bring these solutions to market. This will require a shift in approach to regulation and market access, as well as regulatory scrutiny, and active efforts to create the right market conditions for the effective development of these solutions. More specifically, the European Commission should work with Member States to:

  • Clarify the status of borderline health-related software within the context of medical devices legislation and develop processes to bring low risk software solutions to market in a relatively short time period.
  • Encourage closer collaboration between industry and market surveillance/safety authorities to engage and test early in the process for innovative and disruptive solutions.
  • Spur the development of effective health apps through reimbursement schemes at national level.
  • Encourage the uptake of AI and machine learning solutions in the health sector, notably through innovative approaches to safety evaluation, progressive policies on health data and through sector-specific collaboration and guidance.
  • Be more ambitious in its goal for sharing health records across Member State borders beyond health record summaries. The full ownership of health records by a European citizen to function as a digital passport that will travel with the individual everywhere will accelerate the benefits of patient-centric care.
Case study

Read our member’s case study on Artificial Intelligence, Data and Ethics in Healthcare

3. Push for fair global competition and boost European competitiveness

Global trade is essential for Europe’s growth, jobs and competitiveness. ICT is global by default and enables global value chains for every sector of the economy. A stable, predictable and open global economy is therefore crucial. With the rising threat of protectionism and increased pressure on the multilateral trading system, DIGITALEUROPE believes that Europe should continue to promote an open and rules-based trading system. Europe needs to lead by example and strive for market access and preserve openness. This provides an opportunity for the EU to display trade leadership again in everyone’s best interest.


Promote open markets and foster fair competition

The World Trade Organisation (WTO), born in 1995 as an expansion of the GATT, is crucial to ensure an open, fair and rules-based trading system. The system is however increasingly under strain and requires modernisation to adapt to the challenges of the fast-changing global economy. The increasingly digitalised economy brings new forms of challenges and forms of protectionism and market access barriers. In order to keep promoting open markets and to foster fair competition, we call on European leaders to:

  • Advocate for the reform and expansion of the multilateral rules-based trading system (WTO) to strengthen a multilateral rules-based system that has been instrumental for smooth, productive trading around the world, hence for spreading global growth and prosperity.
  • Grant maximum access to markets with minimum restrictions.
  • Advocate for regulatory convergence and acceptance of global standards.
  • Oppose forced localisation measures and raise awareness globally on the negative impacts of such requirements for the digitalised economy.


Protect innovators within and outside the European borders

Patents and IPR protection are important to encourage investment in R&D, spur growth and create new jobs across Europe, contributing to increased European competitiveness. DIGITALEUROPE believes that patent protection in Europe should be improved and patents should be better enforced within Europe and beyond. This will help create a level playing field while enabling European innovators, big and small, to protect the results of their R&D investments abroad. We ask European leaders to:

  • Secure the introduction of the Unitary Patent (UP) and the Unified Patent Court (UPC) – a long awaited balanced reform that has the potential to significantly reduce costs and simplify procedures for obtaining, maintaining and enforcing patent protection in Europe.
  • Find a path forward for the UK’s continued involvement in the UP and UPC post-Brexit.
  • Ensure that EU trading partners maintain a high level of IPR protection consistent with their international commitments.

Take leadership and set up the digital ‘standard’ in trade agreements

The European Commission is involved in numerous trade negotiations covering various geographical scopes. DIGITALEUROPE believes that all trade deals (at multi-, pluri- or bi-lateral level) should remove tariffs and non-tariff barriers and include commitments that promote the growth of ICT goods and services, telecoms, cloud computing, and e-commerce. They should ensure that the digital ecosystem and the data that flows through it remain open to innovation and commerce globally. Digital technologies, free flow of data and e-commerce are vital to the growth and development of the global economy and we therefore call on European leaders to:

  • Support the WTO e-commerce initiative as it is an important venue for the development of e-commerce rules that ensure companies can grow, innovate, and create jobs with free flow of data as a key principle.
  • Expand digital trade chapters in FTAs that aim to scale up free flow of data, and combat challenges related to forced localisation (e.g. obligation to disclose source code), geoblocking and copyright.
  • Provide access to innovative digital goods and services.


Ensure Trade Facilitation Measures

Simplification and modernisation of international trade procedures, such as import and export requirements, will boost trade and brings crucial socio-economic benefits to Europe. The European Customs Union is a cornerstone of the European Single Market and plays an important role in the facilitation of trade. In order to offer better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe, and to lead by example globally, we call on European leaders to: 

  • Promote an innovation-friendly approach to customs policy.
  • Advocate for Export Control Regulation to support frictionless export practices, aligned with internationally agreed parameters.


Negotiate a comprehensive, global, long-term tax solution

DIGITALEUROPE believes that to update the tax system to digital era, a comprehensive, global, long-term tax solution should be negotiated at the OECD. Furthermore, the OECD should be given the time to complete its work as scheduled, in 2020. National governments should be careful not to fall in the trap of agreeing to impose short-term, globally different taxes (such as digital services tax) based on gross revenues or targeted to one particular sector of the economy: this amounts to deciding to deliberately harm the competitiveness of the EU and risk retaliation measures from other countries.

The OECD has announced their updated report on “Tax Challenges Arising from Digitalization” will be released during spring 2019. Making legally binding agreements beforehand at the EU level would trap the EU to a hastily made legislation, unable to be edited based on the final recommendations of the OECD and changes in business models during the up-coming years.

DIGITALEUROPE therefore urges national governments to wait until 2020 and participate with partners in the base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) initiative led by the OECD for taxation of the digitalized economy that is fair and effective for all industries. In shaping future rules, due regard should be given to the following two considerations:

  • There is no digital economy, only a fast-digitising economy, worldwide. Changes in the global tax framework should therefore cover the whole economy.
  • To safeguard the principle of fairness and integrity in tax policy, any tax on corporate activity should be linked to profit, not revenues; it should comply with applicable tax treaties and not result in double taxation.

For more information, please contact:
Yann Finger
Director for Operations & Intelligence
Kivanç Akil
Associate Director for Events & Executive Coordination
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