French Presidency eyes general approach on governance framework for digital transformation

The Path to the Digital Decade is a governance framework to monitor the EU countries digital transition against the 2030 digital targets. [niroworld/Shutterstock]

The French Presidency is set to receive a mandate to initiate interinstitutional negotiations on the Path to the Digital Decade, a decision to set up a governance framework to monitor the progress of member states against the 2030 digital targets.

Since the beginning of its Presidency of the EU Council in January, France has made several changes to the initial proposal resulting in three different compromises. The overall effect is to weaken the supervisory power of the Commission, leaving more room for national governments.

The French Presidency proposed a mandate to initiate interinstitutional negotiations with the European Parliament. The mandate, seen by EURACTIV, is due to receive green light by EU ambassadors at the Committee of Permanent Representatives on Friday (6 May).

The European Commission presented its Digital Decade targets last year, but it might revise them by June 2026 if deemed necessary based on technical, economic and societal developments, notably in the areas of the data economy, sustainability and cybersecurity.

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A substantial acceleration of digital development is needed if the EU’s Digital Decade targets are to be met, according to a new report that sheds light on the disparity between member states.

Every year, the EU executive will submit to the Parliament and Council a report on the ‘State of the Digital Decade’, but in doing so it will have to consider the national specificities of each country and propose proportionate measures, while also leaving the door open for more ambitious national objectives.

In case the Commission deems the progress made by a specific country insufficient to achieve one or more digital targets, a biannual cycle of cooperation will start. The member state will have to explain how it intends to adjust its strategic roadmap within six months from the publication of the report.

During this cooperation phase, a peer review process might be triggered, activating a mechanism for exchanging best practices on specific digital policies among member states. In the Council’s version, only national governments will be able to initiate that, and the outcome of the peer review will be included in the annual report if the country agrees.

Member states will have to commit to Digital Decade Strategic Roadmaps, which do not exclude national or regional initiatives in the industrial or digital domains. The Commission will provide non-binding guidance on the minimum elements these roadmaps should include.

The Commission will set out the key performance indicators for reaching each digital target via implementing acts, and secondary legislation, based on the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) and after consultation with the member states.

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The European Commission is set to launch a new governance framework for monitoring the digital transition and new legislative tool for multi-country projects, according to a leaked copy of the draft legislation obtained by EURACTIV.

The deadline for member states to submit their roadmap has been extended from six to twelve months. The roadmaps will have to include the relevant policies and expected impact, timing for implementation and projected trajectories.

If a member state does not adjust its roadmap based on the recommendations from the Commission without sufficient reason, the EU executive might adopt a recommendation, but only after consultation with the relevant country. The concerned country will then have to adjust its roadmap within five months or provide a justification as to why it will not.

The power of the Commission has been further toned down, since the possibility for the EU executive to propose appropriate measures in case the national measures are deemed insufficient was removed. The Commission will only be able to propose, rather than initiate, a targeted dialogue with an EU country that continuously deviates from its national trajectory.

In the last compromise, the text was aligned with the digital wallet proposal, known as eIDAS, notably by referring to the fact that 80% of EU citizens would be using electronic identification by 2030.

Moreover, the reference to fundamental rights and to the European Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles was moved from an article to the text’s preamble to make it non-legally binding.

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“All market actors benefiting from the digital transformation assume their social responsibilities and make a fair and proportionate contribution to the costs of public goods, services and infrastructures, for the benefit of all Europeans,” reads the mandate text.

This reference is in line with the Commission’s draft declaration of digital values and principles and draws from a request of European telecom providers that online platforms should contribute to the infrastructural costs. The Commission is currently assessing this assertion, EU digital chief Margrethe Vestager told reporters on Monday.

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The CEOs of Telefónica, Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Orange have called on the European Commission in an open letter to make large content providers contribute to the infrastructural investments.

EU countries pushed for the removal of any reference to radio spectrum in their reporting obligations. Although radio spectrum is a fundamental aspect of the deployment of connectivity networks, it is considered a national resource as it can be licensed at very high costs.

At least three EU countries will be able to a European Digital Infrastructure Consortium (EDIC), an accelerated legal procedure for multi-country projects relevant to the digital transition.

The Commission should provide non-binding guidance on these projects unless support is not requested. The Commission would be empowered to establish key performance indicators for the EDIC unless they relate to national security, public security and defence.

The Council text adds that the need to minimise the negative environmental and social impact of digital technologies and the stakeholder consultations to collect feedback that will inform the policy recommendations should also include civil society.

[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]

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