As the year draws to a close, Ecommerce Europe looks ahead at 2014 and EU decision making. The elections for a new European Parliament, followed by a new European Commission are undoubtedly the changes that will have most political weight attached. These events will happen against the more ordinary changes in the Council Presidency: on 1 January Greece will take over, followed by Italy on 1 July.
With this in mind, the following issues will be top priority for Ecommerce Europe:
1. European Parliamentary elections: 22-25 May 2014
The electorate will have the opportunity to cast its vote in May. The final plenary will be in March 2014 thus it is expected that the first three months of 2014 will be intense as dossiers are pushed through the final round of legislation. The European Commission has set out a priority list of legislation that it wants to see voted upon before or in the final plenary. For Ecommerce Europe the following three issues are of importance:
• Network and Information Security
• E-identification and Signatures
• Data Protection package
Polls expect a landslide victory for populist parties and that about half of the Parliament seats will have new owners. Ecommerce Europe anticipates on the EP elections and will engage with aspiring MEPs and their parties to make the views of the industry clear.
2. New European Commission: November 2014
The Lisbon Treaty stipulated that the new European Parliament has the mandate to choose the incumbent of President Barosso. The EP parties have chosen or will choose a candidate and the speculations on who will be the next President have started. All eyes will be on the EP elections.
Also for this reason, Ecommerce Europe’s involvement in the EP elections is of importance.
3. The Council Presidencies 2014: a forecast
As mentioned in the introductory paragraph of this article, the Presidency of the Council of the EU will go to Greece and Italy in January and July 2014 respectively. The Greek Presidency has announced it will focus on growth, jobs and cohesion; further integration of the EU-Eurozone; migration, borders and mobility; and maritime policy. Sources suggest that the Greek Presidency is likely to suffer from the austerity measures: the budget for the Presidency will be €50 million (compared to €60 to €80 million normally) and its staff will be reduced by approximately 50% (130 officials instead of the planned 250). Moreover, due to the EP elections, the effective time span of the Presidency will be only 4 months, instead of 6.
Presently, not much is known about the priorities of the Italian Presidency. Ecommerce Europe keeps a close eye on the developments concerning the Presidencies of Council of the EU, in 2014 and beyond.
4. Data Protection Regulation
The Data Protection Regulation is currently stalled in the Council of Ministers, which needs to formulate a common position in order for the legislative proposal to be negotiated in the trilogue before it can be voted upon in the EP plenary (currently forecasted for 11 March 2014). The European Commission is poised to ensure that the Data Protection package will be voted in the EP plenary before the current mandate of the EP ends. Whether this will happen remains to be seen.
Ecommerce Europe has adopted a very active lobby strategy on this dossier. Since the pressure to finalise the dossier will intensify in the first months of 2014, Ecommerce Europe will maintain its strategy that is already in place. This strategy consists of: monitoring, analysing and informing officials of our position. The objective for Ecommerce Europe is to have a sound pan European data protection mechanism that does not hamper the potential of e-commerce. In other words: data protection yes, disproportionate red tape no.
5. Consumer Rights Directive
The Consumer Rights Directive’s (CRD) transposition date is 13 December 2013 and it will come into force on 13 June 2014. The past year has seen an intensive lobby campaign focused on Brussels and with participation of all the members. Vice-President Reding has been informed of our concerns and the Commission, the Parliament and the Council have been approached.
Ecommerce Europe applauds the efforts made by the Commission to ensure that consumer rights are adequately protected. Certain clauses in the legislation are detrimental to the e-commerce sector and Ecommerce Europe will continue to inform policy makers of the potential negative effects if the rules are applied too strictly. Ecommerce Europe eagerly anticipates on the first cases and will monitor the outcome.