Nobody said this was going to be simple. It is a process that involves many different interlinked elements and initiatives that are gradually being formulated.
And while the process takes time, things are, in fact, moving full steam ahead.
The Commission's experts have worked very hard – and still are - to make progress in all areas in as rapid and detailed a way as possible. We want to listen to everybody, we need to analyse and we need to get it right.
That is without even mentioning the political sensitivities involved across 28 EU countries, the interests of industry, business and consumers.
We opened 11 public consultations on topics – or sensitive areas, to put it better - that the Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy will tackle, such as telecoms reform, geo-blocking and platforms.
Several of these consultations have now closed, like for the review of EU rules for audio-visual media services. But most are still open until various dates in December. We are still receiving a wealth of useful information, evidence and examples.
I want to thank you for this.
Now, I think everyone is entitled to ask where we are so far, what has been done and when the first actual steps forward will be seen. I can now answer some of those questions.
First, we should recall that the EU has finally secured agreement to end roaming surcharges. This has been a marathon to achieve and began some years before I even arrived in Brussels. It just goes to show how slow the machinery can be sometimes, especially in sensitive areas.
A word on
#NetNeutrality rules: it matters a great deal to me that many of you have serious concerns. For me, though, the current deal is undervalued. I believe it is a good deal because:
- it is a huge step forward to establish, for the first time, open internet rules – instead of fragmented ones - for the whole of Europe;
- it means equal treatment of all traffic with "no blocking, no throttling", no "fast lanes for the few or big" to the detriment of others;
- it is a huge step forward to oblige regulators to be serious about enforcement to avoid any possible abuses. This point is probably the one that some of you are worried about.
An open internet with fair and equal access is a non-negotiable and essential element of any open and democratic society. The principles that are now agreed safeguard this function.
I trust regulators to enforce the rules properly and that if we see problems, we have the tools to guarantee that the internet remains open.
While there is a long way to go with the changes needed to Europe's telecoms sector – to ensure coordination of open spectrum and ubiquitous broadband coverage, among other things – it is a vital first step that roaming surcharges are, or will be, consigned to history and that net neutrality rules are fully established.
Without properly functioning telecoms, we cannot build a properly functioning DSM.
So what is coming next with the DSM?
By the end of this year, we expect to present legal proposals in two important areas.
The first aims to boost e-commerce, by providing simple and effective cross-border contract rules for consumers and businesses.
We want to make sure that consumers and businesses enjoy EU-wide rights and obligations regarding defective digital content. No specific EU law applies in this area at the moment.
Consumer contract rights also need to be aligned for domestic and cross-border online sales, for example with legal guarantees.
The other proposal will be the first concrete step to sort out Europe's outdated rules on copyright and will relate to cross-border portability of online content.
Put simply, this means allowing people who have signed up to online content services in one EU country – for books, music, games, films, drama, sport – to use those services when they are temporarily present in another one.
If they have paid for access rights, say to a film, in their home country, they should be able to watch it if they travel across an internal EU border.
Today, often they cannot do this. With more internet availability, and more ownership of portable devices like tablets and smartphones, online content services have become many people's main gateway to culture and entertainment.
That is not all on copyright. More will follow in 2016. We intend to set out our plans for reforming copyright in a strategy paper that will also be presented by the end of this year.
It will set out ways to make sure that our cultural production can widen its audience across EU countries – and listeners, viewers and readers want this.
We want artists to be fully and fairly paid for their work, to support new artistic creativity and production. For me, creativity and innovation are the EU's main competitive strengths.
In fact, 2016 will see initiatives on many other key work areas for the DSM, following a lengthy analysis based on views gathered from the various consultations. Our commitment is to finalise the DSM proposals by the end of 2016.
I sincerely hope that the timing does not slip for any of our initiatives. We cannot afford major delays or any dilution of our ambition. The digital economy will not stop and wait.
There will be initiatives to tackle unjustified geo-blocking, to continue the reform of Europe's telecoms legislation, cyber security and to promote the free flow of data – just to name a few.
Of course, we also rely on the European Parliament as well as all the EU's national governments to play their part fully if we are to achieve these ambitious goals.
After all, the DSM is for the benefit of all Europeans – people as well as business – across Europe's vast single market.
In short, a great deal to achieve and a great deal to look forward to, both this year and next.
These are just the first steps in a long process. We are fully on track to a Digital Single Market. Another blog soon.