Post-electoral period: what is the European Commission doing?

Following the last EU election, the EU arena has mostly been dominated by political discussions relative to the race to the EU top jobs, i.e. the Presidency of the European Commission, Parliament, Council, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the Presidency of the European Central Bank. Nevertheless, this transitional period represents also an opportunity for national and European stakeholders to define their priorities and their position on relevant issues such as EU competitiveness vis- à-vis other regions of the world, free flow of data, harmful online content and online disinformation, closer interlinkage between online and offline world, AI, 5G network and cybersecurity.

Following attendance to conferences in Brussels, FEDMA has key takeaways on the digital agenda to report.

Taking advantage of the current slow pace of the legislative work, the European Commission is focusing on taking stock of the work done so far in the digital area and “going back to the roots” of some of the most sensitive issues, i.e. harmful online content, incentive profiling, artificial intelligence, targeting advertising.

The current approach does not necessarily aim to propose new regulatory measures, but rather to have a better understanding of these issues in order to determine appropriate actions. In this context, the Commission is focusing on higher transparency levels relative to the business models of the digital economy, starting with the upcoming publication of a report on transparency in the online advertising ecosystem. The main takeaway is that though the report recognizes that online advertising is set to remain, it also stresses the need for more transparency for a better understanding of its modus operandi and higher consumer’s trust.

Furthermore, it appears that the next Commission is likely heading to work on the closer interlinkage between online and offline world, requiring a new approach which does not take apart online platforms and entities from the reality. This seems particularly the case of the eCommerce Directive entered into force in 2000. Aimed to guarantee the provision of digital services in the nascent Digital Single Market, the current Directive falls short in addressing the challenges posed by the new technologies and the evolution of the digital space over the last 20 years. Hence, the European Commission is presently considering whether a new framework for digital services in the EU, along with a review of the eCommerce Directive, is necessary.

In parallel, it also continues to oversee Member States’ information exchange following last March’s recommendation on Cybersecurity of 5G Networks. The latter requires the Member States to complete a national risk assessment and determine – in cooperation with the Commission – a toolbox addressing the main concerns by the end of the year. More precisely, the Commission aims to reach a consensus over future actions relative to 5G network and cybersecurity, especially in terms of cross-border investments.

However, while the work and discussions around these topics are currently relegated to the technical sphere, future proposals will also depend on the “political appetite” of the Commission’s configuration following the European elections. As a reminder, the new MEPs-elected will meet for the European Parliament’s first constituent session on July 2nd in Strasbourg, while the new Commission, should it be timely approved by the EP, will take office at the beginning of November.