Looking forward to 2016

There is no doubt that 2015 was an important year for the Internet and digital economy – digital issues have never been higher on the European agenda, be it as part of the Commission’s bold Digital Single Market strategy or as fallout from the ECJs Safe Harbour decision.

This trend will not subside and as we move into 2016 we will face fundamental changes to Europe’s digital landscape in key areas, including cross-border data flows, cross-border access to digital goods and services, and digital platform regulation.

Take Safe Harbour for example, responses to the ECJs recent Safe Harbour decision ranged a great deal. At ICOMP we do not believe this can simply be portrayed as a Europe vs. America or consumer vs. industry issue. While there are undoubtedly very serious questions which need to be addressed, we see this as a unique opportunity for the world’s two largest trading blocs to strengthen the many ties that already bind us.

Much work has been done to reach an agreement on a new Safe Harbour, and those who have lead the negotiation should be applauded for the work they have done. In a recent letter to Commissioner Jourová, we took the opportunity to express our support for the development of a new agreement and to outline ICOMPs position on how that could be achieved. As we noted in the letter, ICOMP is confident that an agreement can be reached, and that “current negotiations with the United States on a new Safe Harbour provide a unique opportunity to further guarantee high-standard rules in this area that could serve as a model for the rest of the world”.

For Safe Harbour and beyond, we believe that Europe is playing an important and leading role on a number of global key digital issues. The Commission’s ambitious plan for the creation of a truly Digital Single Market is testament to this.

The DSM strategy, announced earlier this year, is a broad and ambitious agenda, covering almost every aspect of information technology and how it impacts governments, citizens, industry and the competitive environment. It contains three pillars:

1. Better access for consumers and businesses to online goods and services across Europe;
2. Creating the right conditions for digital networks and services to flourish;
3. Maximising the growth potential of the European digital economy.

Earlier this month the Commission unveiled the first comprehensive details of the DSM, focused on geo-blocking and copyright, issues of fundamental importance to not only ICOMP and our members but Europeans across the continent.

Whilst the goals are not controversial, their practical implementation will be. Past experience shows this risks being done in ways that may negatively affect many companies. Whether the outcome of the Commission’s initiatives results in formal measures or simply a view of a particular industry, it is critical to avoid solutions that favour certain business models over others or which fail adequately to address specific issues.

As we move into the New Year, ICOMP looks forward to bringing our members together and working to support the Commission, other European Institutions, and Member States in achieving a truly Digital Single Market that supports the growth of the online economy to the benefit of business and consumers.