High time to unlock the potential of the Digital Single Market

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Pushing symbols on a touch screen interface. [Shutterstock]

The Digital Single Market is an opportunity not only to revitalise the European economy, but to tackle some of the biggest problems facing our society, including poverty, unemployment and security, argues Emilian Pavel.

Emilian Pavel is a Romanian member of the European Parliament in the S&D group and the shadow rapporteur for the Digital Single Market dossier in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee.

I believe we are on the brink of a transformative opportunity to achieve greater European integration and dismantle our still fragmented online markets. The potential gains for European citizens, users and entrepreneurs alike are well known, but at the same time, the challenges brought by new technology advancements and the presence of national barriers to digital competition must be met.

Together with my political group, I am fully committed to working towards the completion of the Digital Single Market (DSM) in Europe. Our DSM opinion report successfully passed the LIBE committee, and we hope to see this report, including inputs from various other committees in the European Parliament, will be adopted by the Parliament in January 2016.

With an estimated contribution of €415 billion per year to Europe’s economy, when fully implemented, and the potential to generate thousands of new quality jobs, transform our public services and stimulate investment, the DSM is currently one of the most important legislative initiatives in Europe. According to the European Commission, it could also lead to significant growth in areas such as business productivity, the creation of new business opportunities, and the development of new markets. Perhaps most importantly of all, the DSM presents us with the chance to keep the talent resources that we have, here in Europe. Innovators must be discovered, encouraged and supported.

We live in a continuum of computing innovation, and we should make the most of it, whilst keeping our society safe and prosperous. As a Social Democrat, it is very important to me that vulnerable social groups such as the elderly, people with reduced mobility and those living in remote communities will also benefit from the Digital Single Market. In the European Parliament, we try, with a certain amount of success, to find the right balance between the need for growth and development and the equally important need to take care of all citizens to ensure that all Europeans benefit from our Union.

Of course, I am also well aware that there are many disparities between member states and that things evolve at different speeds. Some people in the European Union, in the East as well as in the West, did not even touch a computer last year. There are other pressing issues that Europe must urgently tackle, like child poverty, the need for more decent jobs and threats to our security. But, all things considered, we have the obligation to tackle all these different challenges at the same time, many of them being closely connected with possible common solutions. I think the DSM can contribute massively to all these priorities.

In an extremely competitive world, with our economy constantly being challenged by innovative giants, such as North America and Asia, we need to have a functioning Digital Single Market and we need to step away from acting like a village with 28 different households with their own separate agendas. Europe needs to stand united in its objectives and in its values. I strongly believe that we now have an exceptional chance to create greater opportunities for our innovators, better services for our citizens, more decent jobs and, yes, a stronger European identity. 

But all these promises must not obliterate essential aspects, such as the fundamental rights of European citizens. In the European Parliament, we have managed to underline their importance and place them at the core of the Digital Single Market.

In my capacity as the S&D shadow rapporteur in the LIBE Committee, I had the privilege to work with colleagues from other political parties to ensure that data protection, privacy and cybersecurity considerations are well addressed.

First of all, I am pleased that we have managed to underline the fact that all legislation linked to the DSM strategy must comply with fundamental rights, in particular data protection legislation. We also stressed that the respect for privacy and the protection of personal data are prerequisites to building citizens’ trust and security in the online world. It is imperative that online consumers are informed of their rights and protected whilst engaging in the digital environment. This also requires strong support for the protection of copyright and intellectual property rights.

Secondly, together with my colleagues, I consider that the fast-growing number of attacks on networks and acts of cybercrime call for a common response from the EU and its member states with a view to ensuring a high level of network and information security. In this regard, I welcome the establishment of public-private partnerships, which better equip us to respond to ever-growing cyber threats.

Thirdly, technology trends like big data, cloud computing, or the Internet of Things, are vital to Europe’s economic development. But I must stress that personal data needs special protection and this can be achieved through security and privacy safeguards, like pseudonymisation or anonymisation. I also encourage a privacy-conscious engineering that implies the design and implementation of algorithms that conceal identities and aggregate data in order to respect the dignity and rights of the individual at the same time as harnessing the full potential of big data.

Last, I fully believe that we need to re-imagine government for the digital era. I therefore support the digitalisation of public services in Europe and the development of e-government and e-democracy. This must of course be based on transparency and high data protection standards as proposed in the Data Protection Reform package and fully in line with the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

All in all, as a young S&D politician, I am tremendously excited about the Digital Single Market. The DSM has the potential to improve our society by making it more inclusive, more accessible and more innovative. I also think it is the ideal tool to bring us, Europeans, closer together. Achieving a true Digital Single Market is impossible without active and intensive cooperation between all member states, European institutions and European citizens. Now, more than ever, we really need to fight for our future, together.

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