The European Commission has set out its work agenda for next year, laying down some concrete markers about what we aim to achieve on the path towards 'digitising' Europe

This week, the European Commission presented its work agenda for 2015.

That might sound like internal bureaucratic procedure, especially to those outside Brussels. But for the #DigitalSingleMarket, it is a significant stepping-stone to the future.

It lays down concrete markers about what we aim to achieve in 2015 on the path towards 'digitising' Europe: creating a vibrant digital economy and society. And it shows what business and consumers – essentially everyone who uses the internet, in fact – can expect from us next year.

There are many policy areas involved in building a connected DSM. We have placed a firm focus on those areas where, by acting on a European rather than national basis, we can make a real and tangible difference to people's lives.

In light of the digital revolution, one of our top priorities in 2015 is to modernise EU copyright rules.

We want to make them fit and relevant for the Digital Single Market so that everyone - citizens and businesses – has online access to digital services, including between and across the EU's own borders. Europe's creative industries have a great capacity for generating growth and jobs, and stimulating innovation across the whole economy.

In 2015, we will also be looking at how to simplify consumer rules for online and digital purchases, how to stimulate more e-commerce - thinking in particular about small companies - enhance cyber-security and get digitalisation into the mainstream of European policy.

But it's not only about launching new initiatives.

We plan to conclude the ongoing negotiations on common EU data protection rules as soon as possible. The Commission will also keep pushing hard for an agreement between the EU institutions on the telecoms single market.

Connectivity is the rock on which the Digital Single Market is based: the essential building block.

In 2015, we will set out a long-term strategy for the years ahead.

It will identify the major challenges, the barriers to overcome, and our key objectives for the future. It will propose a programme of measures – legislative and non-legislative –grouped around main principles such as building trust, removing restrictions and ensuring access.

We will be listening and reflecting throughout. For example, later in February, there will be a conference in Brussels to gather more than 400 interested parties representing companies, organisations, and people from across the digital community.

The idea is to hear everyone's views on how to shape Europe's digital future.

Where do we want to go; what should we do to get there?

I will be there to explain the Commission's priorities and plans for moving ahead, as well as to listen, engage and reflect. Building a connected Digital Single Market is something we want to get right.

It can't be a quick fix. It has to be a long-lasting and well-reasoned basis for the future of Europe's digital economy. And it requires input from many of my fellow Commissioners, such as Günther Oettinger, Elżbieta Bieńkowska and Věra Jourová, to name a few.

In addition, European Commission experts will start a series of visits to each of the EU's 28 Member States to explain it locally on the ground. These 'ambassadors' will listen and learn from a wide range of people and organisations, raising awareness and involvement.

After all, we are building the Digital Single Market in the interests of all Europeans.

So we need to hear from everybody about what is needed, about what you need: your problems, demands, expectations as well as country-specific issues.

I am keen for the atmosphere of transparency and engagement to continue in the coming months. So I would like to hold another #AskAnsip twitter chat, which was an exciting experience back in October and also a very useful one. Not only did I pick up a lot of ideas from all the tweets that came in, but also got a clear feeling of the themes and issues that really matter to you.

Along with the twitter chat, we'll be inviting people to give their views online – so please get involved when this is launched.

I plan to post another blog early in the New Year. In the meantime, best wishes for the festive season!

#Ansipblogs

11 Comments

Victoria's picture

But you just killed the digital sellers

Digital Single Market? You've just killed a large number of the small digital sellers through the unreasonable EU VAT demands on small businesses. Making changes in a year's time is too late. A lot of small companies won't be in business by then - or you'll have prosecuted them for not complying. Many of those who do survive will do so by blocking EU buyers. Not quite what you're aiming for, eh?

Karen Butler's picture

Europe goes digital and #EUVAT

You state:
"In 2015, we will also be looking at how to simplify consumer rules for online and digital purchases, how to stimulate more e-commerce - thinking in particular about small companies - enhance cyber-security and get digitalisation into the mainstream of European policy."

A good start to that would be changes to #EUVAT to allow micro businesses and especially sole-traders to continue trading without having to deal with data collection they cannot comply with, massive admin loads that stop them doing income generating work, and generally dealing with an admin nightmare that only major international businesses have the accountancy and legal staff to deal with.

#EUVAT means micro businesses cannot sell direct and are reliant on the international platforms this legislation was supposed to control.

Mike Bentley's picture

Generating Growth?

I fail to see how this blog post and the comments on the previous blog re VAT are compatible.

A main outcome of the VAT debacle will be to strangle new EU digital businesses at their birth with onerous overheads whilst the mainly US owned multinationals carry on their merry tax avoiding ways.

Beat's picture

E-commerce needs less and simpler rules

Dear Mr. Ansip,

E-commerce does *not* need more laws, rules and burden.

To the contrary, it's already way too complex now, and #EUVAT 2015 changes do not reinforce EU competitivness and EU citizens' financial health, but increase the administrative burden and cost, paid in the end by the EU citizens mainly (compared to most other countries).

Things that would be welcome to lessen the burden (specially after introduction of small-business-hurting and EU-citizens-hurting #EUVAT):

1. Implement an exemption of #EUVAT for small companies and single-persons (e.g. 100k€/country/year threshold like for normal domestic companies) to put the small importing companies on same level-field as small domestic companies.

2. Create an alternate unique #EUVAT tax-rate and corresponding unique rules replacing the 28-country specific rules.

3. Review the #EUVAT law, to simplify it, removing the proofing burden from selling companies.

4. Review the #EUVAT administrative burden.

5. For any other new rules, always check if it increases burden or decreases it. Each line of new law should replace a larger number of lines of existing laws, not increase it.

Btw. In hindsight, the #EUVAT rules create an unfair VAT-advantage to small VAT-exempt domestic companies, compared to small VAT-paying-since-first-€ importing companies. Wondering about its EU-constitutionality... ?

Best Regards from an european small E-commerce entrepreneur

Krissie Pearse's picture

Creative Industry and Digital Economy

Well, Andrus, I look forward to seeing some action. You see, every micro - business starts out as an idea, which develops into someone taking a risk, and germinates as someone working hard enough to all but break their back at the kitchen table. After a while of this, they may end up with a business viable enough to hire a the services of an accountant or a second member of staff.

My idea was to set up a micro - stock website, initially stocked with my own digital photographs, but ultimately inviting others to licence their own digital images through the site if the website did well enough. The idea was that any profit - if profit happened at all - could dribble in slowly. I would have expected it to make a loss at first, as most businesses do... but thanks to UK laws, unless I was earning £81000 or more from it, at least I wouldn't have to charge VAT.

... Except that, now, because of you and others like you, a single sale of a £5 license for a digital image I created on a camera I paid for, on a website I paid to produce and have hosted, would force me to become VAT registered or duplicate my website and to know the VAT law and rates of 27 different countries, and to spend most of my waking hours filling out confusing paperwork...

... and all because of the absence of a threshold... a threshold that would mean the difference between setting up my own business, or having to accept getting screwed over by the big boys.

Congratulations on killing any prospect of new creative businesses arising in Europe and making it impossible for artists to profit from their own hard work. Happy new year, and good luck with improving Europe's digital economy. You're going to really need good luck at the rate you're destroying the little guys... and even the people who haven't even become the little guys yet. Without new small businesses, I do hope you're ready for when Amazon decides to play rough and there are no other players in the market place.

John Rudkin's picture

#DigitalSingleMarket

I cannot believe that this is only happening in 2015. How can it be so complex? The only issue is to be open minded to technological development and an understanding that the human interfaces need to be the key to creating the part of this that reaches the public. Complexity behind the scenes can be reduced, but so little time is spent on the key communication links. Three years ago I was battling to see such changes and acceptance only to meet IT incumbents battling to retain their favoured 10 year old strategies. Digital change was resisted. Alas part of the strategy will be encouraging - or even leveraging out those dinosaurs protecting their interests.

Hillary's picture

#VATMESS

Andrus, You said "In 2015, we will also be looking at how to simplify consumer rules for online and digital purchases, how to stimulate more e-commerce - thinking in particular about small companies"

Please get thinking about this fast before more SME's go under, close their websites, or block EU Consumers. The new VAT regulations are a disaster for small businesses all over the EU. Far too onerous, expensive to implement, and complex to administer. Sadly you have set back eCommerce 20 years with this new legislation which is I am sure not what you intended so please look into it quickly/

Tania Shipman's picture

Kidding right?

Truly amazing that you are doing this when you have just introduced a way of collecting VAT that has turned every digital business into unpaid tax collectors for the EU.

I'm sure your copyright laws will enable big business and create even more burden upon small businesses again.

Amazingly short sighted - congratulations on destroying 10000's of small businesses.

Howard Jones's picture

Digital single market

These are fine aspirations. However the EU has already undermined these by imposing onerous VAT obligations on small businesses trading electronic goods and services. These are too difficult and too expensive for many small traders, who are already either shutting down altogether, restricting trading to their own country where they can benefit from the VAT threshold, or reverting to mailing them out on CD-ROM. The alternative is to trade through third-party platforms, some of whom have shown dubious ethical practices especially where paying tax is concerned.

The internet has allowed many small businesses to sell electronic goods and services globally. This is now being shut down by poorly thought out tax rules.

Yet another case of the left hand of the EU not knowing what the right hand is doing.

J. Rodrigues's picture

Digital Goods VAT Misunderstandings

For those in the UK who haven't grasped what rules are and what the requirements are, please see:

https://www.gov.uk/register-and-use-the-vat-mini-one-stop-shop#businesse...

"If you make taxable supplies of digital services to consumers in other EU member states, and your UK taxable turnover is below the UK VAT registration threshold, you can use the VAT MOSS to account for the VAT due in other EU member states, but you don’t need to account for and pay VAT on sales to your UK consumers."

It isn't rocket science to keep some pretty basic accounts and information on your business transactions. There is nothing in the requirements that should cause any competent person to give up on their business.

Please do not rely on 3rd party sensationalist reporting. The truth is out there and it isn't scary at all.

Galava UK's picture

New EU VAT rules not conducive to DSM

I read your vision for the DSM & cannot comprehend how this will happen, as the current EU VAT fiasco is already tolling a death knell for many micro-businesses. Let me give you some examples:

1. "I build websites & sell webspace. I have a client who has moved to France, & who pays me a fee of £20 every 2 years to renew & hold his domain name. He is my only client outside the UK. Under the new EU VAT rules I would have to register for, & then add, VAT at the French rate to his invoice on his domain renewal. This means he pays more & I have extra admin work to do. Out of the £20 per year income from this client, £18 goes to the domain registrar as their fee, so my profit is just £2. So for £2 per 2 years I have to be VAT registered."

2. "I am the UK & European agent for an Australian playwright. I handle sales of printed scripts, music scores, backing music, & royalty fees on his titles across Europe. During the years that I have undertaken this role I have sold items within the UK & Eire, & once to Spain. English language scripts have a limited market within non-English speaking countries, but still one I felt worth exploring. An option was to provide files in digital format for buyers in both the UK & the EU, as this would help save the buyer postage, & provide a more environmentally friendly method of supply - i.e. the buyer would only print copies as needed, & CDs would be replaced by digital music files, so would not end up in landfill. Having to register for VAT & comply with its stringent requirements to be able to supply in digital format will increase my running costs considerably, & as this is still a market under development & with a small level of income it really would not be worth the time & expense for me to pursue the idea, so sales will remain as physical products."

3. "I design patterns & have written a small number of books, which would be sold as digital files but with a price of around 99p per item, do not provide a large enough income stream to justify the administrative cost of VAT registration, so my choice is now restricted to using a large marketplace such as Amazon to make digital sales with a subsequent loss of profit/income."

Under VAT rules for UK sales, as a sole trader, I am below the VAT threshold, but not for the new EU rules which add a burden to small & micro-businesses. Unless the EU VAT fiasco is resolved the only businesses in the planned DSM will be big ones, as the rest of us will have ceased trading!

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