Slovakia took over the rotating Presidency of the Council of the Ministers (the Council) of the European Union on 1 July 2016. This will be the first time Slovakia takes the helm of the since joining the EU bloc in 2004. Preceded by the Netherlands, it will begin its turn within the Trio Presidency until Malta will take over in January 2017. The Slovak Presidency will have to deal with a wide range of dossiers linked to the Digital Single Market (DSM) Strategy of the European Commission.
Slovakia has the ambition of reaching a general approach among Member States on the geoblocking proposal before the end of its mandate. Ecommerce Europe is pleased to see that the proposal on geoblocking does not contain an obligation for online merchants to deliver everywhere in the European Union and that they are free in setting their pricing policies. According to the proposal, foreign consumers will be allowed to shop like local ones under certain conditions. Such cases, according to Ecommerce Europe’s interpretation, will be treated as passive sales, which means that online merchants will be allowed to apply their home country rules and laws. Ecommerce Europe is pleased that the Commission further clarified this point in the text, even though it might need further fine tuning. Only in this way, online merchants can be sure that they are allowed to apply their national laws, without being forced to deal with laws of countries that they are not actively targeting. Besides that, EU policy makers should be aware that one of the consequences of this proposal might be that consumers end up disappointed with a product that they could buy from a website not directing its sales activities to the country of the consumer and which thus might not have been fit for this market.
Digital Contracts Proposals
The Slovak Presidency will continue with negotiations on the legislative proposals in the field of civil law, particularly on proposals for directives on the supply of digital content and the online and other distance sales of goods. Slovakia will try to keep the two existing proposals within a single package, even though most of the EU stakeholders prefer to wait for the results of the Fitness Check on Consumer and Marketing Law performed by the European Commission before starting the negotiations on the tangible goods proposal. That is why the Slovak Presidency is more confident about reaching a Council partial general approach on the supply of digital content by the end of the year, while it will definitely be more challenging to achieve the same result for the tangible goods proposal. Ecommerce Europe’s position on the Digital Contracts Proposals is available here.
Cross-border Parcel Delivery Proposal
It is likely that the Slovak Presidency will not be able to reach a Council compromise on the cross-border parcel delivery proposal, in terms of handling different national expectations on price transparency against price regulation. Ecommerce Europe recognizes that the proposal for a parcel delivery regulation has the potential to help create a level playing field for competing postal-, courier- and express operators and thereby in the end for online merchants throughout Europe. The association has been vocal in opposing any type of price regulation and Ecommerce Europe therefore expresses support for the Commission’s cautious approach which leaves room for case-by-case assessment by national authorities. Ecommerce Europe will however continue its work with service providers and policy makers to ensure that we come closer to a global level playing field accessible to all players through the use of open information- and label standards.
The Slovak Presidency will discuss during a meeting of Telecoms Ministers the appropriate approach to online platforms. Ecommerce Europe is pleased to see that the European Commission acknowledged the important role that online platforms play in innovation and growth in the Digital Single Market. Ecommerce Europe is also pleased to see that the Commission will not propose an EU regulation, but that it will have a targeted, principles-based approach to fix eventual problems also touching platforms.
e-Privacy and VAT for the Maltese Presidency of the Council
Finally, the European Commission is expected to table the review of the e-Privacy Directive and the proposal for modernizing VAT rules for cross-border e-commerce during the last two months of the Slovak Presidency’s mandate. The next Maltese Presidency of the Council is expected to kick off the negotiations in beginning 2017.
For an overview of Ecommerce Europe’s recommendations on the Digital Single Market, please read our Priority Paper 2016.