Documents considered by the Committee on 22 November 2017 Contents

23Digital Single Market: Mid-Term Review

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Cleared from scrutiny

Document details

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the Mid-Term Review on the implementation of the Digital Single Market Strategy—A Connected Digital Single Market for All

Legal base



Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Document Number

(38716), 8998/17 + ADDs 1–2, COM(17) 228

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

23.1In May 2016, the Commission published its strategy for establishing a European single market for digital goods and services (“Digital Single Market Strategy”).308 It proposed a mix of legislative and non-legislative initiatives, structured across three ‘pillars’. Many of these have subsequently been adopted by the Commission and are currently being scrutinised by the Committee.

23.2On 11 May 2017, the Commission published a mid-term review of the Strategy.309 The Communication takes stock of progress made on initiatives presented under the Strategy. It reports that 35 legislative proposals and policy initiatives have been adopted, stemming from the 16 measures set out in the original DSM Strategy. An annex to the main document310 provides a table giving an overview of progress to date. The vast majority of initiatives that have been adopted by the Commission are currently being negotiated by the co-legislators, and the Communication issues a call “for timely delivery and effective implementation” of these proposals.

23.3The Commission draws particular attention to three initiatives: the agreement that has been reached on cross-border portability on online content services,311 the successful abolition of mobile roaming charges,312 and its proposal to tackle unjustified geo-blocking313 – currently in trilogue negotiations – which it states will represent a “triple win” for consumers.

23.4The Commission identifies three areas where it proposes to bring forward new initiatives in the coming months:

23.5In the Government’s Explanatory Memorandum of 4 July 2017,314 the (then) Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Prior) states that the data economy is one of the UK’s key priorities in the DSM strategy. The Government is more sceptical about action on online platforms, but states that it shares the Commission’s assessment that a “one size fits all approach” would not work, and notes that existing EU rules enable regulators to tackle the transmission of illegal content and harmful content. The Minister does not express a view on further EU action on Cybersecurity.

23.6We thank the Minister for his comments regarding the Digital Single Market Strategy Mid-Term Review. We note that progress has been made on a wide range of files, particularly the more consumer-oriented initiatives such as cross-border portability of online content services, abolition of mobile roaming charges, and geo-blocking.

23.7Regarding the implications of Brexit for the UK digital economy, we note the Government’s clear acknowledgement, in separate correspondence with the Committee, that “the policy objectives of the large majority of Digital Single Market initiatives are cross-border in nature [and] as a consequence of this cross-border dynamic, for most of these initiatives, achieving an equivalent policy outcome from outside the EU would require reciprocal commitments and arrangements for the parties involved.”315

23.8We are content to clear this document from scrutiny on the basis that the legislative proposals to which it refers, a number of which the Commission adopted on 13 September 2017,316 are individually subject to the scrutiny reserve. This Report does not require a response.

Full details of the documents

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the Mid-Term Review on the implementation of the Digital Single Market Strategy—A Connected Digital Single Market for All: (38716), 8998/17 + ADDs 1–2, COM(17) 228.


23.9Following on from its 2016 communication, Online Platforms and the Digital Single Market, Opportunities and Challenges for Europe, the Commission proposes to:

23.10In relation to data flows, the Commission reiterates (as expressed in its January 2017 communication, Building a European Data Economy) that Member States should be guided by a principle of free movement of data within the EU. Data localisation is only justified in limited cases, such as national security.

23.11To support the free flow of data, the Commission intends to:

23.12On Cybersecurity, the Commission sets out plans to review the 2013 EU Cybersecurity Strategy to reflect current and emerging risks. The Commission also intends to review the mandate of the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) and create a European ICT security framework with measures on cyber security standards, certification and labelling.

23.13The communication also highlights four policy actions where the Commission thinks that increased efforts are needed to address the challenges and seize the opportunities of digital transformation:

23.14The communication also reflects on the importance of the DSM for Europe in the global digital economy. The Commission believes that the transition to an EU DSM will help Europe to address global economic challenges and the complexities of the digital economy and society. It identifies key EU strengths, such as a stable and predictable regulatory model and a strong private data protection regime.

23.15The Commission mentions discussions in relation to adequacy decisions facilitating the cross-border flow of data between the EU and third countries, prioritising Japan and Korea but also considering lndia, Mercosur and the European neighbourhood.

23.16In relation to free trade agreements (FTAs), the Commission says:

“Free trade agreements will ensure market access by removing unjustified barriers that distort trade flows and investment. The Commission will seek to use EU trade agreements to set rules for ecommerce and cross-border data flows and tackle new forms of digital protectionism, in full compliance with and without prejudice to the EU’s data protection rules.”

23.17The Commission closes with a call for swift agreement on current DSM proposals by the EU institutions, emphasising that the swift adoption and full implementation of these initiatives is essential to realise the benefits of a fully functional EU DSM.

The Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum of 4 July 2017317

23.18The (then) Under Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Prior) submitted an EM regarding the Digital Single Market Mid-Term Review on 4 July 2017.

23.19The Minister briskly summarises the Commission’s Communication and provides some high-level commentary on the main Digital Single Market-related initiatives that have been adopted to date. These are all either currently being scrutinised individually by the Committee or have previously been cleared from scrutiny. The Minister’s comments regarding them are therefore not reproduced here.

23.20In relation to the forthcoming developing the European Data Economy initiative, the Minister states that this is “one of the UK’s key priorities in the DSM strategy” and reiterates the Commission’s next steps, summarised above.

23.21Of the forthcoming online platforms proposals, the Minister notes that UK regulators already possess certain powers in relation to some platforms:

“Through the E-Commerce Directive and the Audiovísual Media Services Directive, UK regulators are able to place on service providers restrictions in relation to the transmission of illegal content and harmful content respectively.”

23.22The Minister adds that he shares the Commission’s scepticism about a ‘one size fits all’ approach to regulating platforms:

“The Government would agree with the Commission’s Communication on how a ‘one size fits all approach’ to online platforms would not work including the importance of creating the right framework allowing platforms to grow and promote the importance of self-regulation by industry.”

23.23The Minister does not offer the Government’s views on the Commission’s plans in relation to Cybersecurity.

Previous Committee Reports


315 Letter from Lord Prior to the European Scrutiny Committee (5 June 2017).

28 November 2017