EU commissioners with responsibility for the digital single market given the green light | DMA

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EU commissioners with responsibility for the digital single market given the green light


The three commissioners with responsibility for the Data Protection Regulation have been approved by the EU Parliament and can now take their posts following the formal approval of the full Commission on 22 October 2014.

The DMA has been encouraged by their initial comments during their hearings. What is more they will be working as a team in a new set-up created by the new president of the EU Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, to ensure coordination across portfolios. The commissioners all spoke of building trust and consumer confidence at the heart of the digital market which is, of course, the driving objective behind the new DMA Code.

Andrus Ansip, former prime minster of Estonia, will assume the role of vice-president with responsibility for the digital internal market. This means he is, in essence the boss, all other commissioners with responsibility for data protection will report back to him. As former prime minister of Estonia he drove the country’s rise to become a digital leader in Europe.

In Estonia citizens can access their personal information held by government easily and quickly and an electronic signature carries the same weight as a written one. Ansip stated, “Trust is a must” and that while he will work hard to create jobs he sees data protection as fundamental to that effort, an encouraging start from Mr Ansip.

He received an overwhelming positive reception from MEPs. Sitting beneath Ansip is the justice commissioner, Vera Jourova and the digital economy commissioner, Gunther Oettinger.

The DMA attended Jourova’s hearing where we thought she demonstrated the right values for the job and a pragmatic work ethic. However, she was criticised by MEPs over her lack of clear positions – mainly on issues unrelated to the Data Protection Regulation – and this put her position in jeopardy. Fortunately, MEPs have given her the green light.

Out of the three it was Oettinger who had the toughest time of it as MEPs levelled the criticism that he was naïve on digital issues and therefore would not be able to hit the ground running in his new post. His supporters countered that saying that in his previous post of energy commissioner he had demonstrated an aptitude to grasp complex issues quickly and would bring the right attitude to the post. He will be responsible for revising the E-Privacy Directive once the Data Protection Regulation is finally concluded. MEPs did eventually give Oettinger the go-ahead as well.

Now that the commissioners have had their posts confirmed they can now set their sights on advancing the Data Protection Regulation. Once the Council of Ministers have approved their version of the text, the trilogue negotiations will begin during which the Commission, Parliament and Council debate what the final version of the text will be. As such, it is important that the commissioners with responsibility for the regulation understand the issues and the need to strike the right balance between the needs of consumers and the legitimate interests of business so that the regulation does not end up harming industry in Europe.

We think the commissioners are well placed to take forward this message and are encouraged by the appointment of Andrus Ansip, a man who comprehends the issues at stake, and who has emphasised the need to bolster consumer protection in tandem with the development of a business-friendly, competitive digital single market.

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