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Text adopted – Towards a digital trade strategy – P8_TA-PROV(2017)0488 – Tuesday, 12 December 2017 – Strasbourg – Provisional edition

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Articles 207(3) and 218 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS),

–  having regard to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Information Technology Agreement (ITA),

–  having regard to the WTO Work Programme on E-commerce,

–  having regard to the Joint Declaration by G7 ICT Ministers at the Meeting in Takamatsu, Kagawa on 29 and 30 April 2016,

–  having regard to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Ministerial Declaration on the Digital Economy in Cancun in 2016,

–  having regard to the Dynamic Coalition on Trade at the Internet Governance Forum,

–  having regard to the ongoing EU trade negotiations with third countries,

–  having regard to the agreement in principle announced by the Commission on 6 July 2017 on the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement,

–  having regard to Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2000 on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the Internal Market (Directive on electronic commerce)(1)

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation)(2)

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 14 October 2015 entitled ‘Trade for All: Towards a more responsible trade and investment policy’ (COM(2015)0497),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 19 April 2016 entitled ‘Digitising European Industry’ (COM(2016)0180),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 19 April 2016 entitled ‘European Cloud Initiative – Building a competitive data and knowledge economy in Europe’ (COM(2016)0178),

–  having regard to the Commission report of 23 June 2017 on trade and investment barriers (COM(2017)0338),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 10 January 2017 entitled ‘Building A European Data Economy’ (COM(2017)0009),

–  having regard to the Commission proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the respect for private life and the protection of personal data in electronic communications and repealing Directive 2002/58/EC (Regulation on Privacy and Electronic Communications) (COM(2017)0010),

–  having regard to the Commission proposal of 13 September 2017 for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on a framework for the free flow of non-personal data in the European Union (COM(2017)0495),

–  having regard to the Commission staff working document of 2 May 2017 entitled ‘Digital4Development: mainstreaming digital technologies and services into EU Development Policy’ (SWD(2017)0157),

–  having regard to its resolution of 5 July 2016 on a new forward-looking and innovative future strategy for trade and investment(3)

–  having regard to its resolution of 3 February 2016 containing the European Parliament’s recommendations to the Commission on the negotiations for the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA)(4)

–  having regard to its resolution of 8 July 2015 containing the European Parliament’s recommendations to the European Commission on the negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)(5)

–  having regard to the United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development and the outcome document adopted by the UN General Assembly on 25 September 2015 entitled ‘Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’, and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),

–  having regard to the upcoming 11th Ministerial Conference of the WTO, to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from 10 to 13 December 2017, where e-commerce is likely to be discussed,

–  having regard to the UN International Telecommunication Union’s initiatives in support of Developing Countries (ITU-D),

–  having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 8(1) of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and to Article 16(1) of the TFEU,

–  having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,

–  having regard to the reports of the UN Special Rapporteur on the protection of freedom of speech on Freedom of Expression and the private sector in the digital age (A/HRC/32/38) and on the role of digital access providers (A/HRC/35/22),

–  having regard to the EU Human Rights Guidelines on Freedom of Expression Online and Offline, adopted by the Council (Foreign Affairs) on 12 May 2014,

–  having regard to the Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data, European Treaty Series No 108, and the additional protocol thereto,

–  having regard to its resolution of 26 May 2016 on transatlantic data flows(6)

–  having regard to the Commission report to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the implementation of the Trade Policy Strategy Trade for All – Delivering a Progressive Trade Policy to Harness Globalisation (COM(2017)0491).

–  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on International Trade and the opinions of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A8-0384/2017),

A.  whereas technological developments, access to the open internet and the digitalisation of the economy are an engine for growth as they enable companies particularly start-ups, micro-enterprises and SMEs, to create new opportunities in developing, ordering, producing, marketing or delivering products and services, and to reach customers all over the globe at a faster pace and lower cost than ever before; whereas emerging technologies such as distributed ledger technology have the potential to enhance digital trade by improving the transparency of international contracts and expediting the transfer of value; whereas trade in physical goods has been replaced by increasing amounts of cross-border transfers of digital content, sometimes blurring the distinction between goods and services;

B.  whereas data collection, data aggregation and the ability to transfer data across borders has the potential to be a key driver of innovation, productivity and economic competitiveness;

C.  whereas the globalisation and digitalisation of our economies and of international trade have enabled businesses to grow and provided economic opportunities for citizens; whereas the digitalisation of traditional industries affects supply chains, manufacturing and services models, which could lead to job creation in new industries, but could also disrupt current jobs and lead to precarious working conditions as more and more tasks traditionally performed by humans are either automated or off-shored, or both; stresses in this regard that the necessary social flanking measures must be put in place for them to benefit the whole society, such as strong education and training policies, active labour market policies and measures to overcome the digital divide;

D.  whereas the digital economy requires a rules-based framework, including modern trade rules which can reconcile the rapid changes in the market with the rights of consumers, providing the policy space and room for new regulatory initiatives needed by governments to defend and strengthen the protection of human rights;

E.  whereas access to a free, open and secure internet is a prerequisite for rules-based trade and development in the digital economy; whereas the principle of net neutrality should be a key part of the EU’s digital trade strategy in order to allow for fair competition and innovation in the digital economy, while ensuring freedom of speech online;

F.  whereas investment in infrastructure and access to skills remain key challenges to connectivity and, therefore, digital trade;

G.  whereas the UN’s SDGs stress that providing universal and affordable access to the internet for people in least developed countries by 2020 will be crucial for fostering development, as the development of a digital economy could be a driver of jobs and growth, e-commerce being one opportunity to increase the numbers of small exporters, export volumes and export diversification;

H.  whereas women can benefit as entrepreneurs and as workers from better access to global markets, and as consumers from lower prices, whereas many challenges and inequalities still hinder women’s participation in the global economy, as many of women in low- and middle-income countries, still have no access to the internet;

I.  whereas e-commerce is also booming in developing countries;

J.  whereas governments around the world are engaging in digital protectionism by putting up barriers that hinder market access and direct investment, or create unfair advantages for domestic companies; whereas a number of broad measures in third countries taken in the name of national (cyber)security have an increasingly negative impact on trade in ICT products;

K.  whereas foreign companies currently benefit from far greater access to the European market than Europeans do to third countries; whereas many of our trade partners are increasingly closing their domestic markets and resorting to digital protectionism; whereas the EU should anchor its digital trade strategy in the principles of reciprocity, fair competition, smart regulation and transparency with a view to restoring consumers’ trust and restoring a level playing field for businesses;

L.  whereas geo-blocking should be put to an end and no forms of unjustified discrimination based on a customer’s nationality, place of residence or place of establishment within the internal market should take place in the future;

M.  whereas the building blocks that preserve the open internet in the EU’s digital single market, including principles such as fair competition, net neutrality and intermediary liability protections, should be promoted in all trade negotiations; whereas the global dimension of digital trade makes the WTO the natural venue for the negotiation of a rule-based multilateral framework; whereas the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference in December 2017 provides the platform for launching such a process;

N.  whereas the European Union is bound by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, including Article 8 thereof on the right to the protection of personal data, by Article 16 TFEU on the same fundamental right, and by Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU); whereas the right to privacy is a universal human right; whereas high data protection standards help to build trust in the digital economy among European citizens and thus foster the development of digital trade; whereas promoting high data protection standards, in particular as regards sensitive data, and facilitating international trade must go hand in hand in the digital era, in order to support freedom of expression and information, e-commerce, and encryption, and to reject digital protectionism, mass surveillance, cyber espionage and online censorship;

O.  whereas digital trade must protect endangered wildlife species, and whereas online market places must ban the sale of wildlife and wildlife products on their platforms;

P.  whereas private companies are increasingly setting norms and standards in the digital economy, which will have a direct impact on citizens and consumers, as well as on domestic and international trade and at the same time accelerate the development of technological solutions to safeguard business and customers;

Q.  whereas the OECD recommendations against base erosion and profit shifting and the EU’s plans for a common consolidated corporate tax base have highlighted the need to address a number of tax challenges, including those posed by the digital economy; whereas taxes should be paid where profits are made; whereas a more transparent, efficient and fair system for calculating the tax base of cross-border companies should prevent profit shifting and tax avoidance; whereas a coherent EU approach to taxation in the digital economy is necessary to achieve fair and effective taxation of all companies and to create a level playing field; recalls that trade agreements should include a clause on tax good governance that reaffirms the parties’ commitment to implementing agreed international standards in the fight against tax evasion and avoidance;

R.  whereas, according to the OECD, up to 5 % of goods imported into the EU are counterfeited, resulting in substantial losses in jobs and tax revenues;

S.  whereas sensitive sectors such as audio-visual services, and fundamental rights such as the protection of personal data, should not be subject to trade negotiations;

T.  whereas digital trade must also aim to promote the growth of SMEs and start-ups, and not only that of multinationals;

U.  whereas Mexico fulfils the conditions for accession to Council of Europe Convention No 108 on data protection;

V.  whereas the protection of personal data is non-negotiable in trade agreements, and whereas data protection has always been excluded from EU trade negotiation mandates;

W.  whereas trade agreements can be a lever to improve digital rights; whereas the inclusion of provisions on net neutrality, a ban on forced unjustified data localisation requirements, data security, security of data processing and data storage, encryption and intermediary liability in trade agreements can strengthen, in particular, the protection of freedom of speech;

1.  Underlines that the EU, as a community of values and the world’s biggest exporter of services, should set the standards in international rules and agreements on digital trade flows based on three elements: (1) ensuring market access for digital goods and services in third countries, (2) ensuring that trade rules create tangible benefits for consumers and (3) ensuring and promoting respect for fundamental rights;

2.  Stresses the need to bridge the digital divide in order to minimise potential negative social and development impacts; underlines, in this regard, the importance of promoting female participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), of removing barriers to lifelong learning, and of closing gender gaps in access to and in the use of new technologies; calls on the Commission to explore further how current trade policy and gender equality are linked and how trade can promote women’s economic empowerment;

3.  Notes that the network effect of the digital economy enables one company or a small number of companies to hold a large market share, which could lead to excessive market concentration; stresses the importance of promoting fair and effective competition in trade agreements, in particular between digital service providers such as online platforms, and users such as micro-enterprises, SMEs and start-ups, and of promoting consumer choice, reducing transaction costs, ensuring non-discriminatory treatment of all market players and avoiding the creation of dominant positions that distort the markets; stresses, in this context, the importance of including net neutrality as a key part of its digital trade strategy; considers that a digital trade strategy must be complemented by a reinforced and effective international framework for competition policy, including by increased cooperation between competition authorities and strong competition chapters in trade agreements; calls on the Commission to ensure that businesses and companies comply with competition rules and that there is no discrimination against competitors to the detriment of consumers’ interests;

4.  Stresses that access to secure broadband internet connectivity and digital payment methods, effective consumer protection, in particular redress mechanisms for online cross-border sales, and predictable customs procedures, are essential elements in relation to enabling digital trade, sustainable development and inclusive growth;

5.  Considers that trade agreements should provide for increased cooperation between consumer protection agencies and welcomes initiatives to foster consumer trust-enhancing measures in trade negotiations, such as disciplines on electronic signatures and contracts and unsolicited communications; highlights that the rights of consumers must be protected and must not in any event be diluted;

6.  Underlines that SMEs in developing countries make up the majority of businesses and employ the majority of manufacturing and service sector workers; recalls that facilitating cross-border e-commerce can have a direct impact on improving livelihoods, fostering higher living standards and boosting economic development;

7.  Recalls that nothing in trade agreements shall prevent the EU and its Member States from maintaining, improving and applying its data protection rules; recalls that personal data can be transferred to third countries without using general disciplines in trade agreements when the requirements – both at present and in the future – enshrined in Chapter IV of Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data(7)
and in Chapter V of Regulation (EU) 2016/679, are fulfilled; recognises that adequacy decisions, including partial and sector-specific ones, constitute a fundamental mechanism in terms of safeguarding the transfer of personal data from the EU to a third country; notes that the EU has only adopted adequacy decisions with four of its 20 largest trading partners; recalls the importance of guaranteeing, in particular through adequacy dialogues, the transfer of data from third countries to the EU;

8.  Calls on the Commission to prioritise and speed up the adoption of adequacy decisions, provided that third countries ensure, by reason of their domestic law or their international commitments, a level of protection ‘essentially equivalent’ to that guaranteed within the EU; calls on the Commission to adopt, and to make public, updated and detailed binding procedures with a specific timeframe for reaching these decisions, while fully respecting the powers of national supervisory authorities and the opinion of Parliament;

9.  Recalls that the ability to access, collect, process and transfer data across borders has become increasingly important for every type of company that delivers goods and services internationally; notes that this matters for both personal and non-personal data and includes machine-to-machine communication;

10.  Urges the Commission to draw up rules for cross-border data transfers as soon as possible which fully comply with the EU’s existing and future data protection and privacy rules; calls on the Commission, furthermore, to incorporate into the EU’s trade agreements a horizontal provision, which fully maintains the right of a party to protect personal data and privacy, provided that such a right is not unjustifiably used to circumvent rules for cross-border data transfers for reasons other than the protection of personal data; considers that such rules and provisions should form part of all new and recently launched trade negotiations with third countries; stresses that any disciplines in this regard should be exempted from the scope of application of any future chapter dealing with investment protection;

11.  Calls on the Commission to strictly prohibit unjustified data localisation requirements in free trade agreements (FTAs); considers that the removal of such requirements should be a top priority, and emphasises that the relevant data protection legislation should be adhered to; regrets attempts to use such requirements as a form of non-tariff barrier to trade and as a form of digital protectionism; considers that such protectionism seriously hampers opportunities for European businesses in third country markets and undermines the efficiency benefits of digital trade;

12.  Calls on the Commission to put forward, as soon as possible, its position on cross-border data transfers, unjustified data localisation requirements, and data protection safeguards in trade negotiations, in line with Parliament’s position, so as to include it in all new and recently launched negotiations and to avoid the EU being sidelined in international trade negotiations;

13.  Calls on the Commission to combat measures by third countries, such as ‘buy local’ policies, local content requirements or forced technology transfers, to the extent that they are not justified by UN-led programmes on closing the digital divide or TRIPS-related exceptions, so as to ensure that European companies can operate in a fair and predictable environment;

14.  Stresses that the EU should continue to pursue its efforts at bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral level to ensure that third countries offer a level of openness towards foreign investments equivalent to that of the EU, and that they maintain a level playing field for EU operators; welcomes the EU’s proposal for a regulation establishing a framework for review of foreign direct investments into the Union and supports its objectives to better protect critical infrastructures and technologies;

15.  Underlines that a digital trade strategy must be fully in line with the principle of net neutrality and safeguard the equal treatment of internet traffic, without discrimination, restriction or interference, irrespective of its sender, receiver, type, content, device, service or application; recalls, moreover, that traffic management measures should be permitted only in exceptional cases where they are strictly necessary, and only for as long as necessary, to comply with legal requirements, preserve the integrity and security of the network or prevent impending network congestion;

16.  Strongly deplores third country practices which make market access conditional on the disclosure and transfer to state authorities of the source codes of the software that companies intend to sell; considers that such measures are disproportionate as a blanket requirement for market access; calls on the Commission to prohibit signatory governments to FTAs from engaging in such activities; stresses that the foregoing should not prevent state authorities from promoting transparency of software, encouraging the public disclosure of source code through free and open-source software, as well as sharing data through open data licenses;

17.  Recalls that in some cases local presence requirements are necessary to ensure effective prudential supervision or regulatory oversight and enforcement; reiterates its call on the Commission, therefore, to undertake limited commitments in Mode 1, so as to avoid regulatory arbitrage;

18.  Notes that pro-development technology transfer requirements should not be ruled out by disciplines on digital trade;

19.  Calls on the Commission to prohibit third country authorities from requiring the disclosure or transfer of details of the (cryptographic) technology used in products as a condition of manufacturing, selling or distributing these products;

20.  Notes that the protection of intellectual property (IP) rights and investments in R&D are a precondition on the EU’s knowledge-based economy, and that international cooperation is key to combating the trade in counterfeited goods throughout the entire value chain; encourages the Commission, therefore, to push for the worldwide implementation of international standards such as the WTO TRIPS Agreement and the WIPO Internet Treaties; recalls that legal protection throughout the EU, both online and offline, is needed for new creations since it will encourage investment and lead to further innovations; stresses, however, that trade agreements are not the place to extend the level of IP-protection for rights holders by providing for more extensive copyright enforcement powers; stresses that access to medicines in third countries should not be challenged on the basis of IP protection; stresses that trade in counterfeited goods requires a distinctly different approach to IP infringements in the digital economy;

21.  Exhorts the Commission to keep a close eye on ICANN’s gTLD Program, which expands domain names to thousands of generic names, and to guarantee, in line with its commitment to a free and open internet, the protection of rights holders, in particular those relating to geographical indications;

22.  Calls on the Commission to use trade agreements to prevent parties from imposing foreign equity caps, to lay down pro-competitive wholesale access rules for incumbent operators’ networks, to provide transparent and non-discriminatory rules and fees for licensing, and to secure genuine access to last-mile infrastructures in export markets for EU telecom providers; recalls that rule-based competition in the telecommunications sector leads to higher quality services and lower prices;

23.  Calls on the Commission to continue its efforts towards developing a set of binding multilateral disciplines on e-commerce in the WTO, and to continue focusing on concrete and realistic deliverables;

24.  Calls on the Commission to urgently re-launch TiSA negotiations in line with Parliament’s adopted recommendations; espouses the view that the EU should seize the window of opportunity to take the lead to set state-of-the art global digital standards;

25.  Recalls that, since 1998, members of the WTO have upheld a moratorium on tariffs on electronic transmissions; stresses that such tariffs would entail unnecessary additional costs for businesses and consumers alike; calls on the Commission to transform the moratorium into a permanent agreement on banning tariffs on electronic transmissions, subject to careful analysis of the implications in the area of 3D printing;

26.  Calls on the Commission to use trade agreements to promote the interoperability of ICT standards that benefit both consumers and producers, notably in the context of a secure Internet of things, 5G and cybersecurity, while not circumventing legitimate fora for multi-stakeholder governance which have served the open internet well;

27.  Considers that particular consideration should be given to the increasing number of consumers and individuals who are selling and buying items on the internet and are caught up in burdensome customs procedures for goods purchased online; recalls the need to put in place simplified, tax- and duty-free customs treatment of items sold online and returns unused; recalls that the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement aims to speed up customs procedures and improve their accountability and transparency; stresses the need to digitise customs information and management via online registration and operation of information, which should facilitate clearance at the border, cooperation in fraud detection, anti-corruption efforts and transparency of prices relating to customs; believes that the broader use of tools such as online dispute settlements would be beneficial for consumers;

28.  Calls on the Commission to encourage signatories of trade agreements to include, in the telecommunications chapter of their FTAs, provisions making both international roaming fees and the fees applied to international calls and messages transparent, fair, reasonable and consumer-oriented; calls on the Commission to support policies that promote cost-oriented retail prices for roaming services with a view to reducing prices, promoting transparency and preventing commercial practices that are unfair or in any way negative for consumers;

29.  Recognises that the principles of the E-commerce Directive (2000/31/EC) have contributed to the development of the digital economy by creating favourable conditions for innovations and by guaranteeing freedom of speech and the freedom to conduct a business; recalls that the Commission is bound by the EU acquis
in its trade negotiations;

30.  Calls on the Commission to further mainstream digital technologies and services into the EU’s development policy, as outlined, inter alia, in the Digital4Development agenda; calls on the Commission to use trade agreements to improve and promote digital rights; recognises that only 53,6 % of all households worldwide have access to the internet; deplores the fact that there is still a significant digital divide; calls on the Commission to increase investments in digital infrastructure in the Global South in order to bridge this digital divide, including by stimulating public-private partnerships, but while still respecting the development effectiveness principles; notes in this context the contribution of the UN ITU-D in the creation, development and improvement of telecommunication and ICT equipment and networks; urges the Commission to make investments in broadband infrastructure in developing countries contribute integrally to, and contingent on, respect for a free, open and secure internet and to develop adequate solutions to promote mobile internet access; stresses that such investments are particularly important for local micro, small & medium enterprises, especially in developing countries, in order to enable them to interact digitally with multinational enterprises and to access global value chains; recalls that facilitating cross-border e-commerce can have a direct impact on improving livelihoods, fostering higher living standards and boosting economic development; recalls the contribution that such endeavours could make to gender equality since a great number of these companies are owned and run by women; reiterates that digital trade could also be a resource for public administrations and thus support the development of e-government;

31.  Stresses that it is imperative that any digital trade strategy must be fully in line with the principle of policy coherence for development, and should in particular seek to promote and enable start-ups and micro, small & medium enterprises to engage in cross border e-commerce, recalling the contribution this could make to gender equality;

32.  Considers that digital issues should also feature more prominently in the EU’s Aid for Trade policy to facilitate the growth of e-commerce via increased support for innovation and infrastructure and access to financing, notably via micro finance initiatives, as well as assistance in increasing online visibility for e-commerce businesses in developing countries, facilitating platform access and promoting the availability of e-payment solutions and access to cost-effective logistics and delivery services;

33.  Stresses that any digital trade strategy, including its flanking measures, must be fully in line with and contribute to the realisation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; notes that SDG 4 on quality education: providing free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education to all girls and boys, SDG 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, SDG 8.10 on promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, in particular by strengthening the capacity of domestic financial institutions and expanding access to financial services, as well as SDG 9.1 on developing reliable and resilient infrastructure with a focus on equitable access for all and SDG 9.3 on increasing the access of small enterprises, in particular in developing countries, to financial services, including affordable credit, and their integration into value chains and markets, are particularly relevant in this regard;

34.  commits to updating its digital trade strategy every 5 years;

35.  Highlights that the deployment of and access to infrastructure, especially in rural, mountainous and remote areas, that is adequate in coverage, quality and security and supports net neutrality, is crucial for digitising European industry and increasing e-governance;

36.  Supports the Commission communication of 19 April 2016 on ICT standardisation priorities for the digital single market (COM(2016)0176); stresses that while ICT standardisation must continue to be primarily industry led, voluntary and consensus driven, based on the principles of transparency, openness, impartiality, consensus, effectiveness, relevance and coherence, a clearer set of priorities for ICT standardisation, together with high-level political support, will boost competitiveness; notes that this process should make use of the instruments of the European Standardisation System and involve a wide range of stakeholders, both within the EU and at international level, to ensure delivery of improved standard-setting processes, in line with the Joint Initiative on Standardisation; calls on the Commission to foster the emergence of global industry standards under EU leadership for key 5G technologies and network architectures, notably through the exploitation of the 5G public-private partnership (5G PPP) results at the level of key EU and international standardisation bodies;

37.  Notes the efforts made by the WTO to advance its work programme on e-commerce; asks the Commission to seek the further expansion of the WTO’s Information Technology Agreement to include more products and more WTO members, and takes note of the WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires scheduled for December 2017; asks the Commission to consult European businesses and Member States as soon as possible on its position on e-commerce and other digital trade matters to be agreed at the conference in order to ensure a united European position;

38.  Believes that digital trade should be further facilitated in procurement policies, including by taking advantage of possibilities to provide services remotely and by enabling European companies, particularly SMEs, to obtain access to public and private procurement;

39.  Stresses the importance of international standards on digital equipment and services, especially in the area of cybersecurity; asks the Commission to work to ensure the introduction of basic cybersecurity measures into Internet of things products and cloud‑based services;

40.  Stresses that even though the Digital Single Market strategy addresses many of the problems facing digital trade, EU companies still face significant global obstacles such as non-transparent regulations, government intervention and unjustified data location or data storage; points out that some of the key actions of the Digital Single Market strategy, such as the EU cloud initiative and the copyright reform, have an international dimension that could be addressed in a European digital trade strategy;

41.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the EEAS.

(1) OJ L 178, 17.7.2000, p. 1.
(2) OJ L 119, 4.5.2016, p. 1.
(3) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0299.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0041.
(5) OJ C 265, 11.8.2017, p. 35.
(6) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0233.
(7) OJ L 281, 23.11.1995, p. 31.

African Union – European Union Summit: Investing in Youth for a Sustainable Future

The EU was represented by the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and the President of the Council of the EU Donald Tusk, joined by the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy & Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini, Vice-President responsible for the EU’s Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip and Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development  Neven Mimica. The African Union was represented by the President of the African Union Alpha Condé and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa FakiMahamat.

On the occasion, President Juncker said: “We spoke a lot about young people during this summit. Already today, the majority of African citizens are under 25 years old, and by the middle of this century, one in four people on earth will be African. But this demographic dividend cannot deliver without smart investments. This is precisely why we are going to put our investments in education, in infrastructure, in peace and security, as well as in good governance – all of which will in turn inspire good business environments and create much needed jobs and growth.” Read the President’s full remarks here.

In their political declaration, the European and African leaders set out their joint commitment to invest in youth for a sustainable future. Concretely, they committed to focussing their work on four strategic priorities. On this basis, the European and African Union Commission will put forward concrete projects and programmes within three months.

Mobilising investments for African structural and sustainable transformation

European leaders presented, and African partners welcomed the EU’s innovative External Investment Plan (EIP), which will mobilise €44 billion of private investments for sustainable development and job creation. Special attention will be paid to enhancing entrepreneurship of women and young people. The newly launched Sustainable Business for Africa Platform (SB4A) will allow for structured dialogue with the European and African private sector.

Investing in people through education, science, technology and skills development

The importance of supporting inclusive education and vocational training was highlighted. Leaders also agreed to enhance the mobility of students, staff and academics across the African continent, as well as exchange programmes between Africa and Europe, such as ERASMUS+.

Strengthening Resilience, Peace, security and governance

Leaders will step up their work to enhance peace and security on both continents. In this regard, they will strengthen strategic, political and operational cooperation between the African Union and European Union, in close partnership with the United Nations. Support to ongoing work to fight against terrorism was reiterated, including the Multinational Joint Task Force against Boko Haram, the Joint Force of the G5 Sahel and the African Union Mission in Somalia, to all of which the EU is the biggest contributor.

Managing mobility and migration

European and African leaders reaffirmed their strong political commitment to address the root causes of irregular migration in a spirit of genuine partnership and shared responsibility, and in full respect of international laws and human rights, as well as creating legal pathways for migration. Leaders committed to deepen cooperation on migration and mobility in a joint framework, including a continental dialogue between Africa and Europe.

They stressed the imperative need to improve the conditions of migrants and refugees in Libya, and to undertake all necessary action to provide them with the appropriate assistance and to facilitate their voluntary repatriation to their countries of origin, as well as durable solutions for refugees. In order to jointly address the dramatic situation of migrants and refugees victims of criminal networks, in particular inside Libya, President Jean-Claude Juncker, and High Representative/Vice President Federica Mogherini, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat agreed to set up a joint EU-AU-UN Task Force to save and protect lives of migrants and refugees along the routes and in particular inside Libya. Furthermore, efforts will be intensified to enhance intra-African mobility and the free movement of persons within Africa.

Preparatory events in the run-up to the AU-EU Summit

The AU-EU Summit was preceded by a number of important events, including civil society, local authorities, economic and social actors, as well as European and Pan-African Parliament.

Young leaders from Africa and Europe gathered at the Youth Summit on 9-11 October in Abidjan, and their work intensified in the context of the AU-EU Youth Plugin-Initiative. They developed a Youth Declaration with concrete proposals to leaders, which have provided a valuable impetus in preparing and shaping the outcomes of the AU-EU Summit. Youth representatives furthermore had the chance to address African and European leaders during the Summit to present these proposals.

The 6th EU-Africa business forum took place on 27 November, where business leaders, investors, innovative start-ups, and young and female entrepreneurs from both continents developed recommendations on how to improve the business and investment climate.

On the day before the Summit, Ministers of Foreign Affairs from Europe and Africa gathered in Abidjan for a Ministerial meeting, co-chaired by the High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini.

For More Information

Political Declaration [will be available soon]

Joint Statement on the Migration Situation in Libya [will be available soon]

Joint press release of the United Nations, the African Union and the European Union on the Joint Task Force

Intervention du Président Jean-Claude Juncker à la séance d’ouverture du 5ème sommet Union africaine-Union européenne

Opening remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini at the African Union-European Union Ministerial Meeting ahead of the 5th African Union-European Union Summit

Closing remarks by High-Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the 6th European Union-Africa Business Forum

Speech by Vice-President Ansip on the conference on digital transformation in Africa

Opening statement by Vice-President Ansip at the high-level panel on the digital economy, EU-Africa Business Forum

Key results of 30 years of research cooperation with Africa and interactive Africa StoryMap

Daily News 21 / 09 / 2017

Commission sets out path towards fair taxation of the Digital Economy

The European Commission launched today a new EU agenda to ensure that the digital economy is taxed in a fair and growth-friendly way. The current tax framework does not fit with modern realities. The tax rules in place today were designed for the traditional economy and cannot capture activities which are increasingly based on intangible assets and data. As a result, the effective tax rate of digital companies in the EU is estimated to be half that of traditional companies – and often much less. At the same time, patchwork unilateral measures by Member States to address the problem threaten to create new obstacles and loopholes in the Single Market. The Communication adopted by the Commission today sets out the challenges Member States currently face when it comes to acting on this pressing issue and outlines possible solutions to be explored. The aim is to ensure a coherent EU approach to taxing the digital economy that supports the Commission’s key priorities of completing the Digital Single Market and ensuring the fair and effective taxation of all companies. Today’s Communication paves the way for a legislative proposal on EU rules for the taxation of profits in the digital economy, as confirmed by President Juncker in the 2017 State of the Union. Those rules could be set out as early as spring 2018. Today’s paper should also feed into international work in this area, notably in the G20 and the OECD. For more information, please consult thepress release and Q&A. (For more information: Vanessa Mock – Tel.: +32 229 56194; Patrick McCullough – Tel: +32 229 87183)

Juncker Plan set to trigger €236.1 billion across the EU

The Investment Plan for Europe – the so-called Juncker Plan – is now expected to trigger €236.1 billion in investments. Following this month’s meeting of the European Investment Bank‘s (EIB) Board of Directors, operations approved under the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) now represent a total financing volume of €46.5 billion and are located in all 28 Member States. The EIB has approved 312 EFSI-backed operations, supported by €36.1 billion in EFSI financing. The European Investment Fund (EIF) has also approved 306 SME financing agreements, with total financing under the EFSI of €10.4 billion. Around 454,000 small and medium-sized businesses are expected to benefit from improved access to finance as a result of these EIF agreements. The European Commission and the EIB Group estimate that the EFSI has so far supported 300,000 jobs across the EU. By 2020 that figure should be 700,000. On 13 September, the European Parliament and Member States came to an agreement in principle on EFSI 2.0 – the extension and reinforcement of the European Fund for Strategic Investments. (For more information about the EFSI 2.0 agreement, see our EFSI 2.0 Q&A, and for more details on Investment Plan projects and results see the new and updated website or contact Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Siobhán Millbright – Tel.: +32 229 57361)

EU – US Privacy Shield: Commissioner Jourová wraps up the meetings with US administration on the annual review

Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vera Jourová, concluded the joint review meetings of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, with a phone call with US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. The aim of the two-day exercise in the US was to investigate how the US commitments are being met through exchanges on the underlying US legal framework in place and on the functioning of the oversight mechanisms. Both sides agreed that the Privacy Shield is key for the data exchanges in transatlantic relations and expressed mutual commitment to making the Privacy Shield a success. Commissioner Jourová said:  “The discussions over the past days were fruitful. I appreciate the commitment the US administration has showed to Transatlantic data transfers and to our concerns. The Privacy Shield can be a win-win for the EU and the US, if implemented correctly.” The discussions with the US administration together with feedback from businesses, NGOs and other stakeholders will feed into the Commission’s annual review report which will be published in the second half of October. A joint press statement by Commissioner Jourová and US Secretary of Commerce Ross is available online.  (For more information: Christian Wigand– Tel.: +32 229 62253; Mélanie Voin – Tel.: +32 229 58659)

EU and China sign memorandum on water protection against pollution, wastage and climate change

Today, Commissioner for the Environment, Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, and Chinese Minister of Water Resources, Chen Lei, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a Water Policy Dialogue between the EU and China. The signature which took place at the High Level Conference of the Water Platform in Turku, Finland, is a sign of political commitment to the co-operation on water policy, and will help implement the joint priorities between the EU and China in the water sector. Commissioner Vella said: “Today’s signature of a Memorandum of Understanding on establishing an EU-China Water Policy Dialogue is not just welcome, it is essential. We are demonstrating our commitment to jointly address common water challenges. Water is the source of life. Climate change, pollution, increasing demand and wastage have put pressures like never before. We are showing that a global problem needs global action.” The Dialogue between the EU and the Ministry of Water Resources will give political steer to the Chinese Europe Water Platform and cover a number of areas such as developing and enforcing legislation to protect water, integrated water resources management, dealing with water disasters, adaptation to climate change, and improving cooperation on international water issues. Today’s signature with China comes less than a year after the EU – India Memorandum of Understanding on water cooperation. More information here. (For more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: + 32 229 56172; Iris Petsa – Tel.: +32 229 93321)

Cohesion Policy invests in a gas pipeline in Poland

€79 million from the European Regional Development Fund will cover a part of the construction costs of the 130 km-long Zdzieszowice – Wrocław pipeline in South-West Poland. The new pipeline will reinforce the existing regional gas transmission system and increase its capacity. Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Creţu said: “This Cohesion Policy project improving gas connectivity in Eastern Europe is a concrete example of EU solidarity. We invest in thousands of transport, digital and energy networks throughout Europe so our Union can grow faster and ever closer.” Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said: “Well-connected energy infrastructure is essential to achieving the Energy Union. This EU support will help fill existing gaps in energy infrastructure, putting us on the path to a truly connected European energy market. This is necessary to strengthen the security of energy supply and a more efficient use of the energy resources.” The Zdzieszowice – Wrocław pipeline is part of the North-South Corridor included in the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas (ENTSOG), Ten Year Network Development Plan (TYNDP) 2017, as an important part of the North-South gas interconnections in Central Eastern and South Eastern Europe. It was defined as a project of common interest for trans-European energy infrastructure. (For more information: Johannes Bahrke – Tel.: +32 229 58615; Sophie Dupin de Saint-Cyr – Tel.: +32 229 56169)

Commission acts to prevent mis-selling of insurance products

The Commission has today adopted rules to protect consumers when they buy insurance products in the EU. New rules on product oversight and governance will for the first time oblige insurers to prioritise the interest of consumers when designing, developing and distributing all insurance products from 2018 onwards. In addition, new conduct of business rules will ensure that consumers benefit from a high level of protection when they invest their savings in insurance-based investment products, such as certain types of life-insurance policies. Sellers of insurance products will have to comply with new standards on preventing and managing conflicts of interest, and on accepting commissions and payments from third parties (so-called “inducements”). The rules also set out which information sellers must gather from their customers when providing advice and in which cases investment products might be sold with limited advice or without advice. The implementing rules adopted today, in the form of two delegated regulations, stem from the Insurance Distribution Directive (IDD). They will enter into force on 23 February 2018 along with the IDD, following scrutiny by the European Parliament and the Council. They follow the adoption in August 2017 of an implementing technical standard (ITS) on the Insurance Product Information Document (IPID). More information is available online(For more information: Vanessa Mock – Tel.: +32 229 56194; Letizia Lupini – Tel: +32 229 51958)

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Civica by Partners Group

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of Civica Group Ltd (“Civica”) of the UK, by certain investment funds advised and/or managed by Partners Group AG or its affiliates of Switzerland. Civica is a provider of software and IT related services. Partners Group is a global private markets investment management company with portfolio companies active in various businesses. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns, because the overlaps between the activities of Civica and Partners Group’s portfolio companies, as well as their activities on related markets, are limited. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8616. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Sarantopoulou – Tel.: +32 229 13740)


EU at UN General Assembly: standing in for a credible rules-based global order

The European Union on Wednesday at the 72nd UN General Assembly demonstrated a strong commitment to multilateralism and joint solutions for global challenges. President of the European Council Donald Tusk, speaking on behalf of the EU at the General Assembly, underlined the EU’s support for the United Nations. First Vice-President Frans Timmermans at a high-level ministerial event on the Role of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in the Economic Empowerment of Women stressed that violence against women is a challenge for every society and that fighting for the rights for women is the way forward. He as well as High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini also spoke at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum which brought together the public and private sector. High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini, most notably, chaired the E3/EU+3 and Iran Ministerial Meeting on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). On top of a number of bilateral meetings, she also addressed a high-level event on Libya under the auspices of the UN Secretary General, participated at a trilateral EU-UN-African Union meeting and delivered a statement on behalf of the European Union at the ministerial meeting of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBT), urging the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to make credible progress on its obligations to denuclearise. She also hosted an informal session with Western Balkans leaders, where she was joined by Commissioner Johannes Hahn, who earlier in the day met with the Foreign Ministers of the region. Commissioners Hahn and Neven Mimica presented the European External Investment Plan as part of the EU’s contribution to Global Goals at an event with UNDP, while Commissioner Christos Stylianides spoke at humanitarian event on South Sudan. Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulosspoke at the event marking one year of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, at the GCTF Ministerial Meetings as well as at a high level event Preventing Terrorist Use of the Internet, where he highlighted the EU action in this field. On the agenda on Thursday a meeting of the Libya Quartet and a high level event on Syria. (For more information: Maja Kocijancic – Tel.: +32 229 86570; Esther Osorio – Tel.: +32 229 62076)


Additional $293.89 million in support to Iraq pledged at the Ministerial event on Iraq

A total of $293.89 million additional support to Iraq was pledged on Wednesday at the Ministerial-level event on Iraq, co-chaired by the EU together with the Republic of Iraq, the US, UNOCHA and Germany. Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said: “The end of the Mosul military campaign has marked the beginning of a new phase of international support to Iraq. A new phase in which the need for humanitarian aid and protection continues, in order to save and protect the lives of all Iraqis affected by the conflict. In addition, it is now more important than ever to bolster complementarities between humanitarian aid, stabilisation, early recovery and development support: this is crucial to enable Iraqi families to also rebuild their lives. The additional funding announced today by the EU is for lifesaving humanitarian action to the most vulnerable Iraqis, including survivors of violence, children who have lost their parents and childhood to the war. The European Union will stand by them”. Funding aims to provide lifesaving support to the affected populations in retaken areas and those affected by displacement, including in the aftermath of the Mosul military campaign. It will also provide physical rehabilitation and gender-based, psychosocial and mental health support to the survivors of violence during the conflict. More information on EU support to Iraq in our factsheet here. (For more information: Carlos Martin Ruiz de Gordejuela – Tel.: +32 229 65322;Daniel Puglisi – Tel.: +32 229 69140)

EU and UN presented a new initiative worth €500 million to eliminate violence against women and girls

In order to help eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, the European Union and the United Nations have presented yesterday their new “Spotlight Initiative”. At the official launch at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, High Representative/Vice President Federica Mogherini said: “The European Union is committed to combatting all forms of violence against women and girls, as they undermine our core fundamental rights and values, such as dignity, access to justice and gender equality. We need first to ensure that we keep women and girls safe, in order to empower them to deploy their full potential.” Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica added: “Violence against women and girls is one of the greatest injustices of our time, which crosses all borders, generations, nationalities and communities. It deeply touches our hearts and our minds. And it is a serious barrier to any society’s full development potential. To make a real change, I invite all partners to join our Spotlight Initiative for a world in which all women and girls can truly shine!” Over the next few years, comprehensive programmes and large-scale targeted actions will be implemented to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, such as sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices, including female genital mutilation; trafficking and economic (labour) exploitation; femicide; and domestic and family violence. Core areas of intervention will include strengthening legislative frameworks, policies and institutions, preventive measures, access to services and improving data gathering in Africa, Latin America, Asia, the Pacific and the Caribbean. Read also our press release, Q&A (MEMO) and Joint Communiqué, and watch the interventions of High Representative/Vice President Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Mimicahere. (For more information: Maja Kocijancic – Tel.: +32 229 86570; Esther Osorio – Tel.: +32 229 62076; Christina Wunder – Tel.: +32 229 92256)      

Le Vice-Président Šefčovič et la Commissaire Bulc à Tallinn

Le Vice-Président pour l’Union de l’Energie Maroš Šefčovič  et la Commissaire aux Transports Violeta Bulc sont à Tallinn pour une série de discussions sur la politique européenne d’infrastructure dans le domaine des transports. Le dossier était  à l’agenda du Conseil informel Transport organisé par la Présidence estonienne où le Vice-Président pour l’Union de l’Energie Sefčovič a mené une rencontre conjointe des Ministres de transport et d’énergie (écouter sa déclaration sur EbS). Il a souligné que la modernisation de l’infrastructure et la réduction des gaz à effet de serre dans le transport vont de pair et qu’il convient d’y faire face ensemble. Quant à La Commissaire Bulc, elle a eu un échange de vue avec les ministres européens sur les besoins de financement pour l’après 2020 afin de mettre en œuvre le réseau transeuropéen de transport.  Selon les estimations de la Commission, ceux-ci sont de l’ordre de 500 milliards d’euros pour le seul réseau “central” lors de la période 2021-2030. Par ailleurs, la Commissaire Bulc a profité de cette réunion pour attirer l’attention des ministres sur le deuxième Journée européenne sans mort sur les routes (projet EDWARD) qui se tient aujourd’hui à travers l’Europe. A partir de cet après-midi, le Vice-Président Šefčovič et la Commissaire Bulc participeront à la conférence “Connecting Europe” organisé conjointement avec la présidence estonienne. L’objectif est de réunir décideurs et parties prenantes afin de dresser un bilan des investissements d’infrastructure réalisés jusqu’à présent et d’identifier des actions et solutions de financement pour l’après 2020. La conférence est disponible en webstreaming à cette adresse. (For more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: +32 229 56172; Alexis Perier – Tel.: +32 229 6 91 43) 

Commissioner Gabriel in Athens to talk about cybersecurity and digital priorities for Europe

Today, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel is in Athens to deliver a speech on “Digital Policy Priorities for Europe” in front of members of standing Committees on European Affairs and on Public Administration, Public Order and Justice of the Hellenic Parliament. The Commissioner’s meetings include Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Nikos Pappas, Greek Minister for Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Media, the first Vice-President of the Hellenic Parliament Anastasios Kourakis and Kyriakos Mitsotakis, President of the party Nea Dimokratia. She will also visit the site of the project “Development of e-prescription system and provision of related support services” in the e-Government Center for Social Security Services in Athens. Following the Commission’s proposals to scale up European tools to enhance cybersecurity in the EU, Commissioner Gabriel will also visit the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) Athens office on which the EU Cybersecurity Agency will be based. (For more information: Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel. +32 229 67083; Inga Höglund – Tel.: +32 229 50698; Julia Bräuer – Tel.: +32 229 80707)

Urban Agenda for the EU: Commissioner Creţu meets mayors of capitals in Riga

Commissioner for Regional policy Corina Creţu attends the annual Capital Mayors meeting in Riga, Latvia, today and Friday to discuss the implementation of the Urban Agenda for the EU“I want capital cities to be strongly involved in the Urban Agenda for the EU”, said the Commissioner ahead of the meeting, “they are on the forefront of most challenges faced by urban areas. In the current Cohesion policy framework, cities are given more autonomy to deal with the funds then ever; I’m also here to invite them to actively participate in the discussion on the future Cohesion Policy after 2020.” During her visit to Latvia, Commissioner Creţu will also meet Dana Reizniece-Ozola, the Latvian Finance minister to discuss the future EU budget and Cohesion Policy. The Commission will report on the progress made under the Urban Agenda for the EU in October. The next Cities Forum on 27-28 November in Rotterdam will be another occasion to discuss the Urban Agenda further. (For further information: Johannes Bahrke – Tel.: +32 229 58615; Sophie Dupin de Saint-Cyr – Tel.: +32 229 56169)

Upcoming events of the European Commission (ex-Top News)

Go to page 5

Having reached the middle of its mandate, the European Commission published today the mid-term review of its Digital Single Market strategy. It takes stock of the progress made, calls on co-legislators to swiftly act on all proposals already presented, and outlines further actions on online platforms, data economy and cybersecurity.

Go to page 5

Having reached the middle of its mandate, the European Commission published today the mid-term review of its Digital Single Market strategy. It takes stock of the progress made, calls on co-legislators to swiftly act on all proposals already presented, and outlines further actions on online platforms, data economy and cybersecurity.