Is this what a digital Commission looks like?

  
Will Alenka Bratušek be the "digital champion" industry has called for? [UKOM/Wikimedia Commons]

Jean-Claude Juncker’s new European Commission will have a vice-president in charge of digital and innovation, and a new commissioner post taking responsibility for internet and culture, according to leaked documents obtained by EurActiv.

While the draft paper is clearly a work in progress and subject to change, it does raise questions about how Junker plans to pursue the EU’s digital agenda.

Digital policy is seen as part of the solution to Europe’s sluggish economic recovery, encouraging, for example, SMEs to go online in search of new markets.

Junker promised that he would be a ‘’digital president’’ during his campaign in May’s European elections. He has called for a digital Europe and a digital single market.

He even made it the subject of a tongue-in-cheek campaign video.

The promise was extracted from the three leading Spitzenkandidaten during the European elections by outgoing Digital Commissioner Neelie Kroes. But details on how he plans to deliver a digital presidency have been sketchy.

The leak does not give all the answers. Some posts, such as the influential internal market commissioner, are missing, and different versions have circulated around Brussels.

Sources said that rumours suggesting the internal market job be combined with the digital agenda were thought to be ”highly speculative”. It is not borne out by the document seen by EurActiv.

But industry sources also said that the new digital structure “did not quite gel” with what they had heard on the grapevine.

Kroes has called on Juncker to “digitise” the new Commission, which was echoed by ICT industry representatives in a letter.

Industry asked for Juncker to create a “digital champion” to ensure digital is hardwired through the new Commission, cutting across portfolios.

“This person should be charged with applying an innovation principle – as opposed to a precautionary principle – to all EU legislation, and ensuring that EU policy is forward-looking, future-proof and consistent across the Commission with a well-defined set of goals,” the letter said.

It’s unclear whether the vice-president for digital and innovation will be this figure. Kroes was also a Commission vice-president. While she raised the portfolio’s profile, she did not have the authority to impose a digital policy on another portfolio.

Slovenia’s Alenka Bratušek is penciled in for the post, according to the leaked paper.

Internet and culture

The possible decision to combine internet and culture could have interesting ramifications for the EU debate over copyright reform and the digital agenda.

In July, Kroes said copyright reform, should “enable a digital single market, removing the barriers that get between artists and their audience, that prevent innovation, that shatter economies of scale.

“The EU's leaders are signed up to a full, vibrant digital single market. So is President-designate Juncker. Now they need to act on their ambitions – copyright is a major, essential part.’’

Kroes pointed to the example of a European video-on-demand provider who wanted to expand into other EU countries. Ultimately, they gave up because of a patchwork of outdated copyright laws that varied across all the member states.

The commissioner for research and innovation also has a role to play in EU digital policy, awarding funding to new start-ups. These new companies often have a digital component.

According to the leak the job will go to Spain’s Miguel Arias Canete, who takes over from Ireland’s Màire Geoghegan-Quinn.

If ultimately confirmed the new Commission structure will give more importance to digital but whether it satisfies industry – and Kroes – remains to be seen. 

>> Give us your reactions by using the #NewCommission hashtag or send them by email to editorinchief@euractiv.com

Timeline: 
  • 9 or 10 Sept. (expected): Junker to announce members and portfolios of the next Commission 
  • 1 November: Mogherini to take on the role as the EU's High Representative.
  • 1 December: Tusk to take on the role as Council President.
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Comments

Joe Thorpe's picture

For this to work with a single pricing structure across the EU the entire block needs to have a basic minimum wage or people in the most backward parts of the Eurozone will simply not have access to digital services because of the fact they cant afford to access it. The Eurozone is holding back the digital market & creating barriers by virtue of basic income levels that are too far apart to allow a single digital market to work. This is the reason on demand services are priced differently in different locations. If digital companies were forced to provide a flat service across the entire union the prices would rise significantly.

David Barneby's picture

If we are all to be just digits in the EU , thank heaven that I no longer live in the EU . This sounds like a recipe to destroy the EU . What is the matter with you people , aren't Europeans allowed to be human beings any more !!!

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