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Priority to the digital single market

Posted by Nick Prag at 07 May 2015, 15:30 CET |
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The Digital Single Market was earmarked as one of the Juncker Commission's top priorities, and this week it duly set out detailed plans to create a Digital Single Market, with set of targeted actions which are scheduled to be delivered by the end of next year.

The strategy, presented by Digital Single Market Vice-President Andrus Ansip and Digital Economy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger, is seen as vital to the completion of Europe's Single Market.

This is because so much business is now conducted online, by more and more companies. The proposed strategy is needed to build trust in the online world, with the aim of boosting growth and protecting the rights of consumers, online creators and companies.

Why is it important? Currently, online barriers mean consumers miss out on goods and services. It is estimated that only 15% shop online from another EU country. Internet companies and start-ups cannot take full advantage of growth opportunities online: only 7% of SMEs sell cross-border. Finally, businesses and governments are not fully benefiting from digital tools.

So the potential for growth is clear, as is that for cutting costs.

The aim of the Digital Single Market is to tear down regulatory walls and move from the fragmentation of 28 national markets to a single one.

It is thought that a fully functional Digital Single Market could contribute EUR 415 billion per year to Europe's economy and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

The Commission's new Digital Single Market Strategy is built on three pillars:

(1) better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe;

(2) creating the right conditions and a level playing field for digital networks and innovative services to flourish; and

(3) maximising the growth potential of the digital economy.

The Commission's focus on core issues of connectivity and skills is important, as is the simplification of contract law.

The end of unjustified 'geo-blocking' – where online shops either deny consumers access to a website based on their location, or re-route them to a local store with different prices – is also welcome.

We look forward also to legislative proposals in 2016 aimed at reducing the administrative burden on businesses arising from different VAT regimes.

Creating the digital single market is essential because it provides the groundwork for Europe's digital future, as EC president Jean-Claude Juncker put it.

The future, he says, is for pan-continental telecoms networks, digital services that cross borders and a wave of innovative European start-ups.

It is also for consumers to get the best deals and for every business to be able to access the widest market, wherever they are in Europe.

"Today", he said, "we are making good on that promise. The 16 steps of our Digital Single Market Strategy will help make the Single Market fit for a digital age."

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Nick Prag

Nick Prag

Nick Prag is founder and managing editor of Prior to EUbusiness, he was senior editor at Europe Online SA in Luxembourg, where he played a major part in the launch of Europe Online International.