Two Digital Agendas, but one European Union

By EDRi · May 19, 2010

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Deutsch: [Zwei Digitale Agenden, aber eine Europäische Union |]

The European Parliament (EP) passed on 6 May 2010, with a large
majority, a resolution adopting the report on a new Digital Agenda for
Europe: by MEP Pilar del Castillo Vera. The report outlines the
Internet policy for the next five years and beyond.

Two weeks later, on 19 May 2010, the European Commission made public its
Digital Agenda for Europe – an action plan that “would contribute
significantly to the EU’s economic growth and spread the benefits of the
digital era to all sections of society.”

The EP report asks that a European Charter of citizens’ and consumers’
rights in the digital environment, consolidating data privacy and protection
against cybercrime with special protection of minors and young adults,
should be implemented by 2012 and that the Cybercrime Convention should be
ratified by 2015. “Preserving ‘a fair balance between the right-holders’
rights and the general public’s access to content and knowledge’ is also
crucial” says the report. The Charter should consolidate the Community
acquis including, in particular, users’ rights relating to the protection of
privacy, vulnerable users and digital content as well as guaranteeing
adequate interoperability performance. The protection of privacy constitutes
a core value and all users should have control of their personal data,
including the “right to be forgotten.” By this report, the MEPs reaffirm
that rights in the digital environment should be considered within the
overall framework of fundamental rights.

“Citizens should be made aware of the privacy impact of their behaviour in
an online context, and should be afforded the right to require the removal
of personal data even when the data was initially collected with the consent
of the data subject,” also says the report which consider that the “fight
against cybercrime is another significant challenge. The effective
enforcement of EU legislation in this field is often obstructed by
cross-border legal issues, such as competent jurisdiction or applicable

The Commission’s Digital Agenda also talks about the need of increased
cooperation between the different government entities for tracking down
criminal organizations. Even though a lot of rumours have indicated the
presence of child pornography blocking issues in the Agenda, the final text
dilutes the message, but keeps the text “preventing viewing”, which may lead
to dangerous interpretations for digital human rights: “For instance, to
tackle sexual exploitation and child pornography, alert platforms can be put
in place at national and EU levels, alongside measures to remove and prevent
viewing of harmful content.”

EP calls on the Commission, the Body of European Regulators for Electronic
Communications and the National Regulatory Authorities to promote the “net
neutrality” provisions, to monitor its implementation closely and to report
to the European Parliament before the end of 2010. It also considers that EU
legislation should preserve the “mere conduit” provision established in the
e-Commerce Directive (2000/31/EC) as a crucial way of enabling free and open
competition on the digital market.

The Commission is announcing a public debate in the summer of 2010 on net
neutrality, while it “will also monitor closely the implementation of the
new legislative provisions on the open and neutral character of the

The report emphasises the need to develop a “Fifth Freedom” that enables the
free circulation of content and knowledge and to achieve, by 2015, a
convergent, consumer-friendly legal framework for accessing digital content
in Europe, which would improve certainty for consumers and achieve a fair
balance between the right-holders’ rights and the general public’s access to
content and knowledge. MEPs consider that sanctions, as possible tools in
the field of copyright enforcement, should be targeted at commercial
exploiters before individual citizens, as a point of principle.

On the other hand the European Commission is leaving its conservationist
position and is no longer talking of a further enforcement of copyright
online, making this “a first timid step, that it might pave the way to a
reasonable and balanced evolution of copyright in the EU if it leads to a
truly open debate on the question, and creates the conditions for a possible
policy-shift”, as La Quadrature de Net interprets it.

However the Commission’s Digital Agenda has omitted using the term “open
standards”, that had been present in previous versions. “While it
includes some important building blocks for Free Software, the omission of
Open Standards rips a gaping hole in this agenda,” explains Karsten Gerloff,
President of the Free Software Foundation Europe.

The EP report has in view high-speed broadband Internet access and digital
skills for everybody, including disadvantaged population groups and people
living in rural and remote regions, at a competitive price. MEPs believe 50%
of EU households should be connected to very high-speed networks by 2015 and
100% by 2020 and “all primary and secondary schools must have reliable,
quality Internet connections by 2013 and very high-speed Internet
connections by 2015”. Moreover, in addition, “ICT training and e-learning
should become an integral part of lifelong learning activities, enabling
better and accessible education and training programmes”. MEPs also want 75%
of mobile subscribers to be 3G users by 2015.

The EC’s plans are establishing the 2020 target for the “internet speeds of
30 Mbps or above for all European citizens, with half European households
subscribing to connections of 100Mbps or higher.”

Europe’s digital revolution by (5.05.2010)

Digital Agenda: Commission outlines action plan to boost Europe’s prosperity
and well-being (19.05.2010)

A new Digital Agenda for Europe: (5.05.2010)

Communication from the Commission: A Digital Agenda for Europe (19.05.2010)

EU Parliament calls for data rights charter (07.05.2010)

Digital Agenda: Caution required for the future EU Net policies (Press
Release) (19.05.2010)

Lack of Open Standards “gaping hole” in EC’s Digital Agenda (19.05.2010)