What’s next on the EU digital agenda?

From trending debates to industry impact

The last five years were all about the EU acknowledging global digital transformation with its flagship Digital Single Market initiative. Standards were set or reviewed for data, platforms, copyright, telecoms, broadcasting and much more.   If 2019 is the year of change due to EU elections, 2020 will be the year of impact. The new European Commission mandate and new European Parliament mean that new legislation is on the horizon. The upcoming legislative agenda will be shaped by the values and political convictions of the EU’s new policy-makers. We can expect renewed focus on creating a level playing field for digital actors, promoting innovation and prioritising sustainability. Supporting European champions in a globally competitive marketplace will remain central to ongoing debates. New European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has spoken of the EU achieving “technological sovereignty” through standard-setting and strategic investments. Prepare for the opportunities and challenges of this 5-year mandate, as we outline the top 5 issues likely to dominate the EU’s digital agenda.

1. ENFORCING PLATFORM RESPONSIBILITY & LIABILITY

These last few years, EU regulators have tried to force platforms to be more liable and take proactive monitoring measures to address a wide range of issues such as copyright, hate speech, fake news or terrorist content. However, there is still appetite for a more interventionist approach. EU decision-makers will discuss whether it’s time to make online platforms responsible for the content they host.

Potential impact? Intermediary liability underpins the business models of online platforms. A complete 180-degree change would represent a serious threat.  Nevertheless, reforms might allow platforms to become more proactive, placating persistent concerns about hate speech, illegal content and counterfeit goods.

2. VALUE OF DATA

The importance of data is now undisputed. Policy-makers talk about making more data available for public and private use, while respecting the EU’s privacy principles. One way forward could be to create new legal bases for specific new categories of data. The Commission will likely undertake detailed examinations of data use, access, ownership, sharing obligations, portability, liability and monetisation.

Potential impact? Companies can expect a flurry of activity on data. Authorities may seek to enhance their powers to get access to company data to understand the markets better, but also promote data-sharing and data pooling across the industry.

3. OVERHAULING COMPETITION

The European Commission is looking at the need to reform the EU competition framework to better account for the digital world. France, Germany, Austria and Poland are key drivers. Three competition experts recommended updating the rules to better reflect the impacts of data (access, sharing and use of data), dual roles of platforms (when they act as intermediary and a retailer) and merger control.

Potential impact? Competition authorities will look more closely at the data and the dual role of platforms. National reforms of merger controls will be monitored to see whether reform is needed at EU level.

4. TAKING CHARGE ON AI

The development and growth of Artificial Intelligence in Europe has attracted the attention of European regulators, who are pushing for a common EU approach. An expert group published new AI ethics guidelines and its recommendations on the best policy and research mix to help make Europe more competitive in AI.

Potential impact? Europe wants to be a global leader in AI and use its regulatory machine to achieve that aim. Businesses will face additional scrutiny when it comes to their development and use of AI, particularly on privacy.

5. DOUBLING DOWN ON CYBERSECURITY

EU leaders identified cybersecurity as a priority. The Commission is likely to focus on finalising the legislative work initiated under 2017 Cybersecurity package and on the implementation of the instruments in place (Network and Information Security Directive, GDPR). It will also work to create standards and certification scheme for ICT products and to establish a cyber competence centre and network.

Potential impact? Businesses are likely to face intensified scrutiny as well as incentives to engage in public-private partnerships and stronger coordination efforts – at national, EU and international levels.

Seize the opportunity, manage the risk

Digitisation, decarbonisation and an ever changing competitive and geopolitical global stage are going to be key themes for the upcoming mandate. This new European mandate will see the EU work fast towards meeting these challenges. The energy, transport and industrials space will look very different in 5, 10 years’ time – is your business ready?

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This factsheet only addresses a selection of the key files impacting digital companies The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting, Inc., its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates or its other professionals

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