Wednesday 3 May 2017

Elements of style: digital single market in European Parliament

If better and more uniform regulation than elsewhere, such as the federal United States and Canada, is the Digital single market litmus test or benchmark for each measure, can we learn anything from the reception of the DSM communication COM(2015) 192 and the accompanying evidence paper SWD(2015) 100 in the European Parliament?

But first, let us discuss a few elements of style with regard to the European Parliament.

Monster committee report

Here, as in other cases, the key is to find the procedure reference - the Open Sesame - through the search page on  the Legislative Observatory of the European Parliament. Having found the procedure file 2015/2147(INI) it is plain sailing.

We notice that two rapporteurs, Kaja Kallas and Evelyne Gebhardt, produced a joint report for two committees (the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy ITRE and the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection IMCO), regaled with opinions from six other committees.
The resulting report A8-0371/2015 on Towards a Digital Single Market Act contained 78 pages, almost four times the number of pages in the DSM communication from the Commission (20 pages).

Since no legal act was proposed, the European Parliament prepared the report on its own initiative (INI).

I find it fair that the EP wants to exercise parliamentary scrutiny regarding developments in important policy areas, regardless of if the Parliament already has powers to legislate on concrete proposals, or if the Council or the governments of the member states have kept the powers. Parliamentary scrutiny contributes to openness (transparency), the fundamental principle evoked in Article 1 TEU.

I appreciate the good documentation of EP reports and resolutions, as one way to facilitate discussion.

But I wonder why the European Parliament has to say something about everything even remotely touching the subject at hand.

If and when the Parliament has an original contribution or different opinion, these tend to drown in an ocean of verbosity.

If the European Parliament chose to concentrate on the points it wants to make (and their reasons), would the plenary debates become a bit more focused and informative as well?     

What’s in a name?

Another thing I wondered at was the naming of the report: Towards a Digital Single Market Act.

The title reminds us of the communication:
Towards a Single Market Act - For a highly competitive social market economy - 50 proposals for improving our work, business and exchanges with one another; Brussels, 11.11.2010 COM(2010) 608 final/2

But this was a green paper, the basis for consultation; after the public hearing the European Commission published the Single Market Act (SMA) white paper communication, the equivalent of the DSM strategy:
Single Market Act - Twelve levers to boost growth and strengthen confidence -  "Working together to create new growth"; Brussels, 13.4.2011 COM(2011) 206 final   
The SMA later became the SMA I, when the Commission published its second strategy or package of measures, SMA II:
Single Market Act II - Together for new growth; Brussels, 3.10.2012 COM(2012) 573 final  

Admittedly, a seamless European digital single market is still unborn, but the strategy was a ready enough outline of promised actions and proposals, which is why I have failed to understand “Towards”.

The roadmap or package contained many actions, but I failed to understand the next phase as an “Act”, a word I found somewhat pompous with regard to the SMAs at the time.

What’s in a name? The contents matter, but still I am grateful if someone can explain these oddities to me.

Ralf Grahn

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