Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-Eighth Report




Commission draft text on the proposed eEurope 2005 Action Plan.

Legal base:



Trade and Industry

Basis of consideration:

EM of 7 May 2002

Previous Committee Report:


To be discussed in Council:

17 June Telecoms Council and 21/22 June Seville European Council

Committee's assessment:

Politically important

Committee's decision:

Cleared, but formal document requested when available


  9.1  The Barcelona European Council asked the Commission to produce a new draft eEurope Action Plan for presentation at the Seville European Council. The Minister for E-Commerce and Competitiveness (Mr Douglas Alexander) will be giving evidence to us on 15 May. In advance of that meeting, he has submitted an Explanatory Memorandum on an informal text which is expected to be the basis for discussion in the Council's Information Society Working Group, before the Commission adopts its formal proposal on 28 May.

  9.2  The Minister describes the document as only an initial outline which he expects will change significantly in its detail. However, it sets out a structure and format, as well as the main objectives and actions. The Minister has given a full and helpful summary in his Explanatory Memorandum, which includes the following information:


  9.3  The four horizontal objectives are:

to identify the key national and European level policies and initiatives for the information society;

to provide analysis and dissemination of best practices;

to undertake benchmarking of progress; and

to provide a strategic overview and coordination of "the various e-policies" underway.

"Flagship projects" are envisaged, to raise the profile of the overall eEurope strategy by mobilising EU resources and political commitment to demonstrating advanced ideas, at EU, national, or regional level.


  9.4  The focus here is on increasing the interactivity of eGovernment through broadband. By 2005 all administrations should be connected to broadband networks and be offering fully interactive public services. The Commission will set up an eProcurement platform to aid trans-border public electronic procurement


  9.5  This section again focusses on broadband. It picks up the Barcelona European Council Conclusion on a tighter target for computer penetration in schools, and calls for all schools and universities to have a broadband connection by 2005. The Commission envisages that all universities should offer virtual campuses by the end of 2005.


  9.6  All hospitals should be connected to broadband networks by 2005 and online health services should be made available to all citizens and health professionals. An electronic health card, serving as an enhanced E111, would be offered by end 2005.


  9.7  The Commission identifies the need to ensure the "e-friendliness" of legislation and to remove the remaining barriers to e-business processes and e-commerce. It proposes to kick start this with an eBusiness Summit in 2003. Streamlined procedures could be used to establish a ".eu company".


  9.8  The document calls for the full application of the new legal framework and the removal of barriers to entry. It refers to "financial incentives" for promoting broadband access in remote regions, as one type of support from Member States. It recognises the need to increase the awareness of the benefits of broadband, and calls upon both government and stakeholders to work together to achieve this. However, the Minister comments:

"It does not pick up the target in the Commission's report to the Barcelona European Council of 'widespread availability of broadband technologies by 2005'; and it does not underline that, where possible, projects should support market solutions, and it does not refer to regional public sector demand aggregation as a suitable approach".


  9.9  The document calls for the "Cybersecurity Task Force" to be fully operational by the end of 2003. Other potential actions concern strengthening Community research and development for network solutions, a target for the widespread use of smartcards by end 2004, and a European Virus Alert System by end 2003.

The Government's view

  9.10  The Minister says:

"Although this document represents no more than an outline, and must be considered fluid on the detail of the future plan, it does provide a framework for eEurope 2005 consistent with the Conclusions of the Barcelona European Council, March 2002. The Government will continue to work within the Council, across Whitehall, and with industry and consumer contacts to ensure the detail continues to support these broad objectives. Although the draft plan as it stands is generally in line with discussions to date, including [those] at the informal meeting of Information Society Ministers on 21 February 2002, it is too early to make an assessment of the implications of this initial working paper, as the details are likely to change considerably in discussion".

  9.11  The Minister adds that:

"The Government is undertaking consultation on the general development of eEurope 2005 both across Whitehall, with industry and consumer contacts, and within the Council, to ensure that a wide range of views are taken into account before the draft plan is finalised. The Commission held a workshop on 5/6 April in Palma de Mallorca in which Member State officials, business representatives (including from the UK and its Broadband Stakeholders' Group), and the candidate countries were able to contribute views.


  9.12  We thank the Minister for giving us this early indication of the broad outlines and objectives of the proposal which the Commission is likely to put forward. We do not normally scrutinise proposals at such an early stage, but he has given us an opportunity, if we so decide, to question him on what the Government would like to see in the final version of the Action Plan.

  9.13  In his Explanatory Memorandum the Minister has undertaken to submit the full Action Plan for scrutiny as soon as possible after it has been adopted by the Commission. He also tells us the Government is consulting on the proposal.

  9.14  We now clear the document, but ask the Minister to inform us if any substantial changes are made to the proposal before it is put to the Telecoms Council in June.


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