Andrus Ansip, the European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, following his launch of the Digital Single Market plan last week, says that the Commission’s proposed public private partnership on cyber security will be launched early next year. In the meantime, he remains confident that the data protection regulation can be agreed on before the end of the year.
Before his appointment to the European Commission, Andrus Ansip served as Estonian finance minister, prime minister and as an MEP for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE). He answered questions from EURACTIV’s Jeremy Fleming.
How much is there in the Digital Single Market plan that is designed to create a European Digital Single Market: to protect and nurture European industry and to stave off dominant foreign competition?
We have to ask ourselves why European talents go abroad and why we are not able to create the conditions that allow them to stay. This must be a priority for our Digital Single Market. The Digital single market will not be the single answer. It will need to be complemented by proposals for training and funding prepared by my colleagues. I really believe that the Digital single market will make Europe more attractive for investors.
What will be the quick gains by the end of the year?
The Strategy is just the starting point. We need to ensure delivery. By the end of the year, we have the objective to present a first package of measures which will give to European citizens and businesses more choice with greater access to content, goods and services from other EU countries.
Are you anticipating resistance from member states or industry to many of your proposals? Which do you anticipate will be most resisted?
The Digital Single Market has so far received positive reactions and the Commission is looking for an endorsement by the European Council in June. And I’m sure that as all these actions have been called for by the vast majority of member states and reflect the contributions of the major political groups of the European Parliament, the member states and the European Parliament will give us strong and sustained support to ensure early successful implementation.
The Commission’s attempts to push for net neutrality appear to have been diluted by member states. Has the proposal become insignificant?
Net neutrality rules are an important element of the Telecoms Single Market package that is currently being negotiated with the European Parliament and the Council.
The Commission wants an ambitious agreement as soon as possible. We need to protect the right of Europeans to have unfettered access to the Internet. People should not be unfairly blocked or slowed down when they use the Internet. Content and application providers should make their content available without discrimination. EU rules should also allow European industry to innovate and provide better services for consumers. We need these principles into EU law as soon as possible; otherwise we will have 28 different approaches in Europe, and this will be a problem for both users and businesses.
How do you assess the current progress on data protection?
After three years of talks, the negotiations on the data protection reform are in a good path. The next EU Presidency Luxembourg is willing to conclude the negotiations and the European Parliament is ready to vote. The Commission expects an adoption of the reform by the end of the year. Once the new EU rules on data protection are adopted, which should be by the end of 2015, the Commission will review the ePrivacy Directive. Special rules which apply to electronic communications services will indeed need to be adapted to the new framework on the protection of personal data. It will also be important to assess the scope of the Directive. It currently applies to providers such as traditional telecoms companies but not all market players are covered.
How central is cybersecurity to the proposal? Do you think that Europeans are aware of the risks?
I want EU industry to stay ahead in the fast moving and ever more important cybersecurity market. Today, only 22% of Europeans have full trust in companies such as search engines, social networking sites and e-mail services. And 72% of internet users worry that they are being asked for too much personal data online. I want Europeans and companies to be better protected. More trust in the online world means more opportunities online.
In the first half of 2016, the Commission will propose to establish a public-private partnership on cybersecurity in the area of technologies and solutions for online network security. A public-private partnership is a good tool to ensure industry and public actors jointly deliver a project of common European interest. This not only about new initiatives. The Network and Information Security Directive that is currently being negotiated with the European Parliament and the Council will greatly contribute to a higher level of cybersecurity in Europe.