Michel BARNIER: Digital Single Market: let’s make reality match our vision!


Conference “The EU Digital Single Market: From rhetoric to reality”

Brussels, 28 May 2013

Dear Minister,

Dear Members of the European Parliament,

Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, let me thank the Finnish and British governments for organising this event.

In her famous Bruges speech in 1988, Margaret Thatcher identified the single market as our best competitive advantage.

What she did not know was one day something called the internet would make her statement even more topical.

Twenty-five years later, the digital single market is indeed our new frontier. It will allow us to compete with new economic powers such as China, South Korea and Brazil. It will also bring huge benefits to every European citizen.

I am just back from Amsterdam where I attended, alongside Princess Beatrix, the European Inventor Awards. I was struck that so many of the winners and nominees had invented groundbreaking technologies that lie at the heart of the digital single market.

In the digital single market, consumers should be able to compare products from all over Europe. They should be able to pay online and have purchases delivered to them quickly, efficiently and securely.

All Europeans should be able to listen to the music they like or watch their favourite TV programme across Europe, on their tablet or their smartphone.

They should also have easy access to free, independent and multiple sources of information; in a common European public space.

Citizens living in remote regions should not have to drive long distances to do their paperwork or deal with their bank. They should also have access to many more products, at a competitive price.

European businesses, particularly SMEs, should have the effective possibility to go online. And a new breed of entrepreneurs should be able to invent and rapidly market new products, such as apps and cloud services.

Finally, by going paperless, public administration should become more accessible and cheaper for taxpayers.

Here is my vision: a genuine, empowering digital single market; acting as a multiplier of the single market as we know it.

The Commission has undertaken a major work programme to achieve the Digital Single Market.

However, I recognise that reality still has a long way to go to match this vision.

As was pointed out today, only 20% of all online retailers offer goods and services cross-border.

Every day, people are frustrated by being unable to access online music or films offered in other Member States; even though they are prepared to pay for it.

Every day, consumers willing to buy online are blocked by access, payment or delivery problems. Some of them even still face discrimination because of where they live.

Every day, businesses lose new opportunities because of divided national markets.

There is a long way to go but we have no choice.

We need the digital single market to create jobs. Why? Because for every one off-line job created, the digital economy creates 2.6 jobs.

We need the digital single market to drive innovation. This, more than labour costs, is our added value in international markets.

And we can use the digital single market to drive the added value of Europe.

So what remains to be done to create a genuine digital single market?

First of all, we must complete our work in three major policy fields.

I – First, we need to set the right framework to develop online services and e-commerce.

In January 2012, we launched an ambitious action plan.

One and a half years later, I am even more convinced: e-commerce in Europe rests on a solid ‘core’ legal foundation, the e-Commerce Directive.

No revision is need.

Action needs rather to focus on making the surrounding ‘infrastructure’ adequate and easier to use. This means, for example data protection, payments, consumer protection, networks and intellectual property.

Our plan is beginning to bear fruit.

For example, the revision of the payment services directive we will propose in just a few months.

It will adapt existing rules to include new types of payment services, like online-banking or mobile phones.

We have also just proposed a directive on bank accounts. It will facilitate online comparison of prices and conditions offered on payment accounts.

However it will grant all Europeans the right to a basic bank account.

So, consumers currently out of the banking system will have the opportunity to reap the benefits of the digital single market.

In the autumn, we will also present actions to improve the parcel delivery process, making it more trustworthy and convenient for consumers and SMEs.

As I previously mentioned, in principle the e-Commerce Directive is a solid piece of legislation.

However, we will soon propose new legislation on ‘notice-and-action’ to make it easier and more efficient to apply.

Our goal is threefold: ensure quick action against illegal online content, avoid legal content being taken down, and bring more legal certainty for users, platforms and rightholders.

II – Our second major initiative relates to intellectual property.

Copyright, rather than being a barrier, should be a modern and effective tool.

It should support innovation and investment in creation.

It should help creators best seize the huge opportunities offered by the internet; starting by discovering new fans and audiences.

Moreover, it should offer us the opportunity of using music and images as the common language of our 27 countries by providing access to high quality across borders.

In parallel, this will help strengthen Europe’s diversity and cohesion.

For me, copyright is one element of the broader “IP infrastructure” which should accompany artists and businesses from creation to exploitation and marketing.

With the “Licences for Europe” initiative, we have established a day-to-day structured dialogue between those concerned with producing, distributing and using copyright-protected content.

We have asked them to come up with specific, short-term solutions on a series of issues; including cross-border portability of online music or video services and “user-generated content”.

At the same time, we have also worked on legislation. For example, on collective rights management.

Our directive will improve the governance of collecting societies while also facilitating the granting of multi-territorial licences.

We are also making an in-depth assessment of substantive copyright legislation.

We will take a decision in 2014 on whether this requires revision. Here to read more.

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