E-commerce amongst priorities of the Latvian Council’s Presidency

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Latvia has recently taken over the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union from Italy and presented its program and priorities for the next 6 months. During this period, Latvia will lead the European Ministers to develop a position on many legislative dossiers. The new Presidency has made the digitalization of Europe a priority and will focus on three main objectives: Competitive, Digital and Engaged Europe.

Digital Single Market: removing barriers to cross-border e-commerce
The Latvian Presidency is looking forward to the timely publication of the Digital Single Market Strategy and will devote particular attention to it by holding proper discussions in the Council, as well as informal events. Latvia is strongly in favor of the elimination of online borders and will strive for a swift introduction of more favorable conditions for online services. Ecommerce Europe has long been advocating for such a landscape, so as to foster the development of a seamless cross-border e-commerce in Europe.

Data Protection Reform tops Council’s agenda
Reaching an agreement on the General Data Protection Regulation is a priority for Latvia. Ecommerce Europe supports swift harmonization of data protection rules, but not at any cost. As Ecommerce Europe already reported earlier, Justice Ministers are still divided about many issues. The rapporteur of the European Parliament for the Data Protection Reform (DPR), Jan Philipp Albrecht, declared that Latvia is being “highly ambitious” on this dossier, affirming that it will not be able to reach an agreement by the end of 2015.

Latvia believes to be able to reach a general approach on the DPR during the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council on 12 March 2015.

Better e-payments environment beneficial for e-commerce
In order to allow businesses and consumers to fully enjoy the benefits of the European Internal Market, the Presidency will work towards the finalization of discussions on the revised Payments Services Directive (PSD2). The successful adoption of this proposal will improve the payments framework so that it will better serve the needs of an effective European payments market. E-commerce is specifically indicated as an important element of the Single Market in the Presidency’s programme. Latvia believes that such a market will contribute to stronger competition, innovation and security to the benefit of all stakeholders, including online retailers and consumers.

Latvia hopes to reach a political agreement on the PSD2 dossier during the Economic and Financial Affairs Council on 12 May 2015 as it has been scheduled in the Presidency’s provisional agenda.

Multilateral interchange fees
Ecommerce Europe reported earlier that the European Parliament and the previous Italian Presidency of the Council recently reached an agreement on setting limits to multilateral interchange fees (MIFs). These fees, charged by consumers’ banks to merchants for payment card transactions made with debit or credit cards, can be an onerous cost for online merchants. Despite this informal agreement, France still had some concerns in the Council.

The Regulation on MIFs will be discussed again at the Economic and Financial Affairs Council on 27-28 January in the hope of a final vote.

Next steps
Ecommerce Europe remains closely involved in all the discussions concerning the e-commerce sector and will report back to its members accordingly. For more information about the recommendations Ecommerce Europe has made to the European legislators for facilitating cross-border e-commerce, please see the Ecommerce Europe Priority Paper (2014).

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