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The EU's Vice President in charge of the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip presented on Thursday his proposals to Washington's influential Brookings Institute. During a press conference on Friday the pragmatic Mr. Ansip provided some more insights as to how the EU and its 28 membership states faces the complexities of a fast changing internet and how they plan reducing existing regulations and harmonize the EU into one single, large economic block.
EU VP for the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip speaking in Washington, DC   Photo Ludo Segers
EU VP for the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip speaking in Washington, DC Photo Ludo Segers

The EU is trying to simplify the rules for consumers to shop on-line across the 28 countries but still faces costly international shipping fees, something that consumers in Lithuania experience every time they order something from on-line shops, such as Amazon. On-line shopping and sharing platforms for crow funding, forex and credit are providing consumers and business new options, but also many impediments remain.

The EU may not have some of the big on-line internet shops such as Amazon and Netflix or some of the exchange platforms like Uber, but Mr. Ansip pointed out that Europe is nevertheless leading in robotics and embedded systems and leading in the digital trade of banking, cars and logistics. The fast moving world is forcing the EU to make the on-line activity a top priority. Not just unlocking potential for business, but more importantly creating an environment for future gains in productivity and cost reductions that are essential to keep Europe competitive in the global arena. The Americans are worried about a level playing field and fear that the EU will build walls to keep their companies out. Mr. Ansip sounded very reassuring that this is not the objective and he ensured that he works close with the FTC in the US. Mr. Ansip will also have to juggle with an increased need for consumer protection.

The EU is moving quickly to harmonize the VAT requirements, minimizing bureaucracy with some exemptions for small volumes of small and medium sized business in the member states. He proposes an exemption for VAT collections for business doing less than 100,000 Euro business. For consumers some of the biggest challenges relate to telecoms regulations, copyright (IP), and data protection and ownership legislation.

Big data is at once a threat and an opportunity for citizens, something they find out when people living in one EU country have freely access to their medical data, whilst others discover that their data is owned by their hospital and either not available, or at a cost. With big data doubling nearly every two years, the EU seems to have a daunting task at hand. That will necessitate bringing down barriers in information and changes in communication technology regulations in many countries. Geo-blocking of content is increasingly being circumvented by VPNs, whereby legal providers offer access to pirated content suppliers. Mr. Ansip said, "Follow the money" is the only recourse. That and cybercrime are just some of the worries that the authorities face. The biggest challenge for the EU will be keeping up with the fast moving technology. That will be Mr. Ansip’s Directorate's real challenge.

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