EU legislators seek a way out of the impasse in DMA negotiations

European Commissioner in Charge of Internal Market Thierry Breton (L) and French Minister of State for the Digital Transition and Electronic Communication Cedric O (R). [EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET]

This article has been updated with a factual correction on a statement from Andreas Schwab.

Little progress was made in the second political trilogue on the Digital Markets Act on Thursday (4 February), but a breakthrough might soon be found by linking the negotiations with the Digital Services Act.

At the high-level meeting, EU co-legislators merely recapped their political priorities and the progress that has been achieved at technical level. The meeting agenda, seen by EURACTIV, included references to SMEs, killer acquisitions, regulatory dialogue and the gatekeeper designation process.

The discussion continued on the core of the legislative proposal, the obligations for gatekeepers contained in Articles 5 and 6, particularly regarding accessibility and interoperability. According to a source involved in the negotiations, the trilogue seemed more like a “hearing”, as the agenda was too ambitious, and there was “no real debate.”

EU institutions kick off negotiations on law targeting Big Tech

EU lawmakers held their first political discussion on the proposed Digital Markets Act, a key piece of the EU’s digital legislation, on Tuesday (11 January), with a view to reaching an agreement by the end of March.

From the Commission’s side, the source added that executive vice-president Margrethe Vestager tends to see obligations as grounded in competition case law and opposes expanding Articles 5 and 6 beyond what was initially proposed.

By contrast, the source said that Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton was more open to going further than past cases, considering the DMA more of an internal market instrument.

On Tuesday, a new four-column document was circulated. The internal document revealed that co-legislators still have different views on how to calculate the platforms’ users, notably if counting them only from the EU or the entire European Economic Area, which also includes Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

The compromise text included the measures requested by MEPs to protect whistleblowers and enable collective redress actions. On the other hand, the Council obtained obligations for the gatekeeper to provide information on the annual turnover and number of monthly active users for each core platform service.

At the lawmakers’ request, the text further clarifies that the Commission will exercise its powers even before formally launching a market investigation. In these probes, the EU executive might ask for the support of national authorities.

EU ambassadors approve 'general approach' to Digital Markets Act

Ambassadors from the 27-member European Union unanimously adopted their “general approach” to the DMA on Wednesday (10 November), bringing several modifications to the European Commission’s proposal to rein in the dominance of big players on the EU’s digital market.

Until now, progress on key sticking points has been limited.

In an event hosted by EURACTIV on Wednesday, Schwab admitted that not enough progress had been made so far and urged the French Presidency “to speed things up to have the regulation in place by January 2023.”

As pressure grows on the negotiators to reach an agreement, rumours circulated this week that Schwab was in bilateral talks with the French Presidency and that an attempt was being made to link the negotiations on the DMA with its sister proposal, the Digital Services Act (DSA).

“The DMA is not the only text,” said Mathieu Weill, head of the French government’s digital economy department, at the same event. “We think both go really hand in hand, and we need to make sure we are keeping consistency across these Acts.”

The French government is under time pressure to reach an agreement ahead of the country’s Presidential elections in April, in order to use the legislation targeting Big Tech as a campaigning point.

Contacted by EURACTIV, Schwab said that “everyone is speaking to everyone on everything”, adding that he was in conversation with DSA rapporteur Christel Schaldemose on how to link the two files.

A European Parliament official said that keeping the two files together was an intelligent move but added that MEPs would be extra careful that, if they agreed to move the targeted ads part to the DSA, the agreement would be respected.

DSA: MEPs gear up for negotiations ahead of kick-off trilogue

The lawmakers representing the different political groups met on Wednesday (26 January) to iron down the political priorities in view of the first political trilogue of the Digital Services Act (DSA) that will take place on 31 January.

Left and centrist lawmakers, in particular, are ready to battle for the ban for minors.

“It is necessary and justified to intervene and at least prohibit targeted advertising towards minors. Less collected data from minors means fewer dependencies from gatekeepers,” said René Repasi, who recently took over the negotiations for the Socialist and Democrat group after MEP Evelyne Gebhardt retired.

An experienced EU diplomat told EURACTIV that things usually start moving following the second trilogue. In the early stages of trilogues, the institutions merely weigh each other’s priorities and what they are willing to concede.

The diplomat added that it is challenging for the Council to understand the negotiating position of MEPs, as everything is presented as a priority.

The Parliament official admitted that no internal discussion had taken place to discuss potential concession points. The official added that they are now expecting significant compromises by the French Presidency in the next four-column document.

EU parliament adopts regulation targeting internet giants

EU lawmakers adopted their version of the Digital Markets Act (DMA) in a plenary vote on Wednesday (15 December), formalizing their mandate to enter interinstitutional negotiations on this key piece of digital legislation with the European Council and Commission.

[Edited by Benjamin Fox]

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