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The news this month feels like we are more travelling back in time then forward: Rising energy costs, inflation and the worst of all, war and people having to flee their country. These issues rightly dominated the EU and international agenda last month. Apart from the immediate crisis, these changes will also put their stamp on the future economic and geo-political outlook for businesses, communities and citizens. Fortunately there are also positive challenges to be taken on board, of which many are covered in this newsletter: The regulatory re-design of the digital framework that should bring consumers, security and innovation more central in the digital economy, new initiatives to make products and services more compatible with our environmental limits, and the ongoing work to make upcoming digital innovations (Data, AI, IoT, Crypto…) compatible with societal and business objectives. To interpret and respond to all these developments will be a challenging exercise, but one not to be overlooked.

Digital markets act (DMA) – Political agreement reached
On March 24Th, a provisional political agreement was reached at the triologue between EU Council, European Parliament and European Commission on the DMA regulatory proposal.

The DMA will introduce for the 1st time ex-ante regulatory obligations –  alongside competition policy – on so-called gatekeeper platforms (Core Platform Services).  The rules aim to make digital markets fairer and contestable for competition. Obligations include for example restrictions on combining personal data from different sources, to allow users to install apps from third-party platforms, a ban on bundling services, and a ban on self-preferencing practices,n imposing interoperability for messaging services and -at a later stage – for group chats.

The agreement still needs to go through an approval process by EP and EU Council.  The EU Parliament plans to present the text to the plenary in July or September.  The DMA rules could enter into force end 2023 (The DMA is applicable six months after it comes into force and after a 6 months transition period).

March 30th, IDATE Digiworld Executive club Brussels/London discussed this subject with legal and industry experts at our webinar “DMA – its impact and compliance challenges”.  You can replay the webinar here.

Circular Economy – EC proposes Sustainable Products Regulation
The European commissioners adopted March 30th, a Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL establishing a framework for setting ecodesign requirements for sustainable products and repealing Directive 2009/125/EC. Copy can be found here. The main objectives of this regulation are to reduce the negative life cycle environmental impacts of products and improve the functioning of the internal market.

Products will be obliged to adhere  to energy efficiency rules and “circularity” objectives, meaning they are durable, can be reused, repaired and recycled, and contain recycled materials.

The European Commission will have to develop new ecodesign rules for specific product groups using delegated acts. Textiles, furniture, tyres, paints and steel, could be among the first targeted with product-specific rules.  Over time, everything from electrical goods, to cement and smartphones can be covered.

Products will also have a “passport” of information about their sustainability. This should help consumers and businesses make informed choices when buying, repairing and recycling goods. Similar as the EU’s Ecodesign Directive that mandated energy efficiency labeling.

The proposal will now go to the European Parliament and EU Council for discussion and adoption.

Mobile Roaming – Extension regulation until 2032
The European Parliament and EU Council approved the extension of the roam like at home scheme until 2032.  After the current roaming regulation expires (on 30 June 2022), people may therefore continue to make calls, text and browse the web while travelling in other EU countries at no extra cost. The revised roaming regulation adjusts maximum wholesale prices to ensure that providing retail roaming services at domestic prices is sustainable for operators throughout the EU.  The revised regulation will oblige operators to offer the same roaming quality to that provided domestically, if the same conditions are available on the network of the visiting country. MEPs secured a provision in the new rules to prohibit practices that reduce the quality of roaming services (e.g. by switching the connection from 4G to 3G). It also obliges access to emergency services, including for people with special needs. After signature by the President of the European Parliament and the President of the Council, it will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union and enter into force on 1 July 2022. The agreed text can be found here.

Digital Services Act (DSA) – Trilogue discussions continue
The European Commission tabled a new legislative proposal on a digital services act in December 2020. The DSA aims to provide consumers with greater protection against online illegal content, clarifying the liability rules that apply to intermediaries (in particular social media) and strengthen rules to ensure that consumers can purchase safe products online from online marketplaces.

Interinstitutional negotiations between the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council started in January 2022. Controversial issues currently being discussed include the scope of the new regulation, the enforcement mechanisms proposed, targeted advertising (for minors), use of ‘dark patterns’ and new rules for content moderation in times of crisis. An agreement can be reached in a fifth trilogue at the end of April.

Common Charger for digital devices – discussions continue in European Parliament
The EU proposed (September 2021) a draft legislation that will introduce a common standard port for all smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, headphones, portable speakers and video game consoles. It also makes sure that it is no longer needed to buy a new charger every time you purchase a new mobile phone and that all devices can be recharged using the same charger. The IMCO committee is scheduled to vote on its draft report on 20 April 2022. Major point of discussion is the introduction of new rules for finding a common solution for wireless chargers. The Commission’s proposal states that the EU may adopt delegated acts to consider rules for wireless charging in the future. The EP finds that the text should make clear that as soon as a solution is there, harmonised wireless chargers should be introduced.

Cybersecurity – Commission launches consultation on the European Cyber Resilience Act
The Commission has launched a public consultation to gather the views and experiences of all relevant parties on the forthcoming European Cyber Resilience Act. The public consultation will be open until 25 May 2022. The Act seeks to establish common cybersecurity rules for digital products and associated services that are placed on the market across the European Union. The results of the public consultation will feed into the Commission’s proposal for legislation (expected Q3 2022).

The Cyber Resilience Act will complement the Directive on the security of Network and Information Systems (NIS Directive), the Cybersecurity Act, as well as the future Directive on measures for high common level of cybersecurity across the Union (NIS 2).

Artificial Intelligence (AI)EP committees set timetable and Council of Europe looks at rules
The parliamentary work on the EU proposal on AI is progressing. A joint report of the European Parliament’s Internal Market Committee (IMCO) and Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) will be presented on 11 April. Deadline for amendments is set for 19 May. In October, the MEPs are to discuss the report and adopt it in the first November session of the plenary.

The European Parliament AI Special Committee came to a close after 18 months. You can find the final report “AIDA Report on Artificial Intelligence in a Digital Age” here.

The Council of Europe’s Committee – The Strasbourg-based human rights organisation – on Artificial Intelligence started work on binding rules for AI. By November 2023, a potentially legally binding agreement on artificial intelligence to protect democracy and human rights should be in place for 46 countries.  The committee will further elaborate on the recommendations presented in December on AI in law enforcement, justice, and public administration.  It also called for a full or partial moratorium or ban on AI applications that pose an “unacceptable” risk to human rights such as facial or emotion recognition and social scoring.

EU-US Privacy Shield –a political agreement signed for future transatlantic data transfers
Commission President von der Leyen and U.S. President Biden signed March 25th a political agreement for future transatlantic data transfers.  See for the joint statement here.

The new deal should replace the so-called Privacy Shield, an arrangement allowing firms to transfer Europeans’ data to the U.S. The Privacy Shield deal was invalidated in July 2020 by the EU’s Court that agreed with Max Schrems, a privacy activist, that the existing framework did not protect Europeans from U.S. surveillance. Once the legal text is available, the process for a so-called adequacy decision could begin at the EU level.  In this framework, the European Data Protection Board would have to certify that the US has a level of data protection comparable to the GDPR. According to the Justice Commissioner, the Member States and the EU Parliament must also be involved in the process.  The agreement was much welcomed by Meta and Google.

Child Sexual Abuse Material online (CSAM)  – announcement EC proposal postponed
The EC’s new legislative proposal against child sexual abuse online, announced for 30 March, has been postponed. Currently, 27 April is listed on the agenda of the EU Commission. The EC’ss Regulatory Scrutiny Board had some remaining  “reservations” on the EU coordination centre,

Encryption,  General monitoring and privacy requirements and regime for SMEs.

In the meantime, France’s new law on parental control over access to the Internet was published in the French Official Journal on 3 March 2022. It requires device manufacturers to give parents the option to control their children’s internet access.  The French law still awaits EC scrutiny.

Across the channel, UK’s Online Safety Bill was introduced in the parliament, five years after it was proposed.  The Online Safety Bill  seeks to hold technology companies responsible to ensure that children are protected from harmful content while limiting exposure to illegal content.

Crypto-assets MEPs agreed draft on new rules to boost benefits and curb threats
The EU is working on new rules to boost the potential of crypto-assets and curb the threats. MEPs have reviewed and amended the European Commission’s proposal and in March 2022 decided to begin negotiations on the final shape of these rules with EU countries in the Council. The rules cover transparency, disclosure, authorisation and supervision of transactions. MEPs want the issuing of some of the tokens to be supervised by the European Securities and Markets Authority and the European Banking Authority.  Businesses dealing with crypto-assets will have to better inform consumers about risks, costs and charges. By regulating public offers of crypto-assets, the rules would ensure financial stability, while other measures tackle market manipulation, money laundering, terrorist financing and other criminal activities. To reduce the high carbon footprint of crypto-currencies, MEPs are asking the Commission to prepare new rules to include any crypto-asset mining activities that contribute substantially to climate change in the classification system for sustainable activities.

European digital identity proposal – European Parliament opinion in the making
EP’s Internal Market Committee (IMCO) discussed the draft opinion of Mr Andrus Ansip (Renew) on the European Digital Identity proposal. In his presentation, the Rapporteur underlined that the implementation of a cross-border legal framework  for trusted digital identities is an essential tool to strengthen the Digital Single Market. IMCO Shadow Rapporteurs welcomed the Commission proposal and the draft opinion, also underlining further areas of work, in particular on the need to strengthen data protection and security for the European Digital identity Wallet users.

Automotive data – Commission launches public consultation on vehicles data access regime
The Commission published a call for evidence on impact assessment on access to vehicle data and opened  a public consultation. The Commission is gathering stakeholders’ views regarding the current state of play of access to vehicle data, functions and resources, as well as their views on a range of possible measures that could improve the situation, and the costs, impacts and possible risks of these measures. Full details can be found here.

The vehicle data legislation proposal, expected in 4Q 2022, would complement the proposed horizontal draft Data Act.

BEREC – results of March 2022 plenary meeting
The following topics were addressed at BEREC’s march meeting: Ukraine (ISP blocking); Open Internet Regulation; Fixed and mobile backhaul; digital sector’s impact on the environment; Guidelines on State aid for broadband networks ; Open-RAN and outline of BEREC 2023 working program.  BEREC Stakeholders forum 2022 was held 23 March 2022 where it discussed AI, Green ICT, DMA and Digital 2030 targets.

BEREC’s Draft Report on Sustainability provides an overview of BEREC’s work on ICT sustainability to assess and better understand the impact of the digital sector, including electronic communications networks and services, on the environment. Link : Draft BEREC Report on Sustainability: Assessing BEREC’s contribution to limiting the impact of the digital sector on the environment for public consultation.

Open RAN.  BEREC conducted a survey of the opinion of MNOs on certain aspects of Open RAN and published a summary report and findings.  BEREC will as part of its Work Program for 20222 organise an external workshop to identify and discuss some of the potential gains and limitations of Open RAN.

Link :  https://berec.europa.eu/eng/document_register/subject_matter/berec/reports/10204-an-overview-of-the-berec-work-on-the-open-radio-access-network-ran

Russian media – EU issues restrictions against RT and Sputnik
After Commission President Von der Leyen announced measures on 28 February, the EU regulation concerning restrictive measures against RT and Sputnik was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 2 March.  The regulation entered immediately into force and requires providers to block Sputnik and RT on all channels, without the need for intervention at Member State level, for example that of a regulator. It shall be prohibited from broadcasting or permitting … the dissemination of content” from both media “by any means such as cable, satellite, IPTV, internet service providers, new or pre-existing platforms or applications for sharing videos on the internet”. Compliance with the regulation will be monitored by each EU Member State.

EU-China summit
The 23rd EU-China summit took place on 1 April 2022 via video conference. President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, accompanied by High Representative Josep Borrell, spoke with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang in and Chinese President Xi Jinping. The EU and China discussed extensively Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, the state of bilateral relations and areas of shared interest such as climate changebiodiversity, the Single market, COVID-19 recovery, Trade,  Human rights and the digital economy.

On Trade, the EU pointed to the need to address long-standing concerns related to market access and the investment environment in China, with the view to ensuring a balanced trade and economic relationship. 

On the Digital economy, the EU raised the importance of a transparent and competitive environment for the digital economy, as well as trustworthy and ethical uses of artificial intelligence.

EU leaders expressed concerns about increased cybersecurity threats and called for responsible state behaviour in cyberspace. The EU and China will resume the high level digital dialogue.

IoT in Europe – Publication of a Roadmap for the Next-Generation IoT in Europe
The Next-Generation Internet of Things (NGIoT) coordination and support action (CSA) has published a roadmap containing projections and priorities for research and deployment in IoT and edge computing from 2021 to 2027 across Europe and beyond.

The NGIoT roadmap looks into emerging next-generation IoT and edge technologies as well as potential application use cases. Perhaps the biggest opportunity is in the space of smart edge IoT devices where, for example, billions of intelligent, AI-driven sensors and actuators will collect, process and analyse data in real time, individually or as a swarm. The IoT research, innovation and deployment priorities in the EU roadmap presents the project’s final recommendations and can be retrieved via the NGIoT portal.  IoT Week, will take place in Dublin from 20-23 June 2022.

You can download the NGIoT report here.

Destination Earth – Commission launches new initiative (digital twin)
The Commission has launched together with partnering organisations the Destination Earth initiative to help tackle climate change.  Supported with an initial €150 million from the Digital Europe Programme until mid-2024, the goal is to develop a highly accurate digital model of the Earth.

It will help monitor, model and predict natural and human activity, and develop and test scenarios for more sustainable development. High-quality information, digital services, models, scenarios, forecasts and visualisations will be provided first to public sector users and then gradually to scientific communities, the private sector, and the general public.

European Parliament study – Influencer marketing as part of the advertising industry
The EP policy department published a study The impact of influencers on advertising and consumer protection in the Single Market”. It provides information and analysis on the impact of influencers on advertising and consumer protection in the Internal Market, identifies best practices and makes recommendations for future action.

European Parliament – EP’s Internal Market Committee (IMCO) mission to Silicon Valley
IMCO is planning a visit to Silicon Valley end of May. The mission purpose is to look into the latest digital market developments in the United States and the EU, such as challenges in relation to the development and further use of e-commerce, Al, consumer protection, online platforms and the sharing economy. IMCO delegation will direct exchange with local authorities, companies (big and small) and academic institutions on how to maintain a proper business eco-system that nurtures innovation while guarantees high standards of consumer protection.

The European Chips Act – Intel to invest €30bn into chip manufacturing in Europe
Intel announced plans to invest about €30bn into chip manufacturing in Europe, including €17bn for a giant new manufacturing plant in Germany.
At the same time, France has also signaled support for Intel’s plan to make the Saclay technology cluster outside Paris, Intels European R&D headquarters, with 1,000 researchers focused on artificial intelligence and high performance computing.