Last Wednesday (19 February) was a big day for the European Union’s digital and tech policy ambitions. Throughout the day, chief EU policy makers presented the European Commission’s roadmap for the new regulations and investment plans it will propose to complete the Digital Single market in the EU.
The listed policy files cover a broad range of topics from creating shared data spaces for business-to-business data sharing, through plans for boosting infrastructure for key technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and 5G, strengthened cybersecurity and privacy measures, to a re-examination of the responsibilities of online platforms. European Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen openly linked the numerous policy plans to Europe’s ambition to reclaim its digital leadership on the global stage and to set rules that apply to foreign global players:
“The breadth of our strategy reflects the scale and nature of the transition ahead of us. It covers everything from cybersecurity to critical infrastructures, digital education to skills, democracy to media… I sum up all of what I have set out with the term ‘tech sovereignty’. This describes the capability that Europe must have to make its own choices, based on its own values, respecting its own rules. This is what will help make tech optimists of us all.”
Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, and Internal Market Commissioner, Thierry Breton, reiterated the President’s messaging and honed in on what they believe to be Europe’s key strategic advantage: industrial data, coupled with the key technologies – such as AI – that will support its future proliferation. On his part, Commissioner Breton did not mince his words in linking Europe’s data to the continent’s renewed ambition for leadership in the digital economy:
“Europe may have lost the battle to create digital champions capable of taking on US and Chinese companies harvesting personal data, but it can win the war of industrial data. The battle for industrial data starts now, and the main battlefield will be Europe.”
What is the relevance then of this week’s bold statements and long lists of upcoming legislation and how exactly will it impact business in Europe and beyond? There are three key things to keep in mind:
- EU tech policy is no longer only about the tech sector. Businesses from all sectors should keep an eye on the Commission’s tech agenda. Planned initiatives linked to data, Artificial Intelligence, privacy and sustainability, for example, could lead to regulation that would impact the mobility, healthcare, energy and financial sectors.
- This is only the beginning of the EU’s legislative process. While a lot of the files focus on what should be achieved during 2020, in reality, the planned legislation will be introduced, discussed, revised and concluded over the next five years. The earlier companies spot opportunities or risks and participate in stakeholder consultations in the policy-shaping process, the better.
- This goes beyond the EU. It is no secret that the Union is proud of exporting its legislation and standards to the rest of the world. One needs to look no further than the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation or Europe’s rule on data transfers to be convinced that Europeans rules on data and privacy do not stop at the EU’s borders. The new European Commission will continue this ambition of leading globally through its own approach to technologies and data. The EU executive will also look internally to build its own tech sovereignty as well with much of the focus shifting to building European digital skills, capacities and infrastructure. Dominant digital players from outside of the EU will face increased scrutiny, as the EU will work on creating a level-playing field for its own digital champions to thrive.
With all these important developments to keep track of in mind, H+K examined all the Commission’s digital strategy files and built a clear policy timeline on the upcoming digital regulation and initiatives. Stay up-to-date with all the EU’s digital legislation by downloading the timeline here.