Draft Commission Work Programme 2015: huge challenges for digital rights

By EDRi · November 24, 2014

EDRi has obtained a copy of the draft Commission Work Programme 2015. For those who have followed the nomination hearings of the Commissioners, this draft programme does not contain any major surprises. However, it does show the huge number of proposals and initiatives that will have a direct impact on our fundamental rights and freedoms in the coming years. Juncker’s aim is to adopt the Work Programme on 16 December in Strasbourg.

In a letter to the Commissioners, he explains that the draft Commission Work Programme consists of new initiatives, pending proposals and withdrawals of legislation – all with the aim of achieving his ten-point plan for Europe. In addition to the key list of initiatives and proposals, he invites all Commissioners to propose additional items – or to review the necessity of pending proposals – in light of the mission letters that were sent out along with the nominations in September.

Among the new initiatives in the draft list for 2015, in the work area of the “Connected Digital Single Market”, the document lists a “plan on cyber-security” and the already-announced reform of the E-Privacy Directive (once there is an agreement on the data protection reform).

Among the new major new initiatives that were initially proposed by the Secretariat General, the Commission announces a Digital Single Market Package (Q2 2015) and a proposal on copyright reform (2015). As we have pointed out on many occasions, copyright rules are no longer fit for the digital age and a move away from failed repressive measure towards a comprehensive reform would be more than welcome.

Furthermore, the document mentions a “possible amended proposal for Telecoms package” – which might include yet another effort at undermining net neutrality rules. Currently, the EU Member States (in the Council) are discussing the Telecoms Single Market Regulation and may delete some of the pro-net neutrality rules adopted by the European Parliament (EP). If the Regulation is amended to weaken those rules, we will have to work hard to ensure that the EP stands behind its decision and its defence of an open Internet.

Furthermore, the Commission announces its work on a “reasonable and balanced” Free Trade Agreement with the US (TTIP) – a peculiarly defensive wording. Why refer to the need for TTIP to be “reasonable and balanced” other than because the risk of this not being the case? This will be certainly one of the most important dossiers for digital civil rights that EDRi will be dealing with in the coming year. This is not only true for general concerns regarding the transparency of the negotiations but also with regard to the possible inclusion of data protection, protections for vigilantism by internet companies and copyright provisions.

In the area of Justice and Fundamental Rights, the Commission announces the long awaited accession to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the conclusion of negotiations on a comprehensive data protection agreement with the US. Conclusion of these two sets of negotiations would market the end of a long process. Accession of the European Commission to the ECHR would be an historical step and is an important re-affirmation that any kind of restriction of fundamental rights needs to be “prescribed by law” (Article 10(2) ECHR).

Lastly, we welcome the announcement of Commission’s work aimed at increasing transparency of the institutions. The draft programme mentions the introduction of an Inter-Institutional Agreement (IIA) to create a mandatory lobby register for the EP, the Council and the Commission. This step is certainly long overdue. The previous Commission developed some atrocious habits on transparency, making access to documents unnecessarily bureaucratic and difficult – we would welcome any moves to consign this approach to history.

There is more than enough work for European Digital Rights in this new legislature. While the Commission is finalising its work programme, European Digital Rights started working on a public fundraising campaign which will be launched in the coming weeks. Now more than ever, EDRi needs your support to continue defending and promoting your rights and freedoms at EU level.

Draft Commission Work Programme 2015: