Characteristic of policies regarding electronic commerce is the
interlink between national, European and international relation.
Due to the global nature of electronic commerce a uncoordinated
national approach makes little sense. Only a joint European policy,
based on a defined common position adopted before negotiations
on a global level begin, can avoid contradicting positions of
Member States that weaken the position of the Community as a whole
in international fora, and also allows the Community to take a
strong position vis-à-vis the US, which itself has very
pronounced positions on electronic commerce.
European Action Needed
As a consequence of the analysis undertaken to the following actions
- promoting regulation and its implementation where EU intervention
is needed including data protection, intellectual property, harmful
and illegal content and taxation. At the same time use should
be made of technologies such as pornography filters or systems
designed for calculation and reporting of international tax, thus
limiting legislation to what is strictly necessary as electronic
commerce is still in an early stage of development. Whenever possible
existing laws should be applied.
- promoting a minimalist regulatory approach in areas such
as competition policy, encryption, commercial communications or
payment systems that, however, provides a minimum legal security
which the market can develop. In these areas electronic commerce
is best served by erring on the side of too little regulation
until Internet activities assume a clearer shape. In time, some
solutions to Internet problems are likely to emerge from the market
- lobbying Member States to abstain from national solutions,
such as in the area of taxation. Regulation on the European level
avoids the creation of new barriers in an emerging European electronic
- opposing the introduction of Internet specific taxes. Instead,
the EU governments should choose a combined approach of modification
and harmonisation of existing tax systems and the vigorous pursuance
of tax evasion, as the UK government is currently undertaking.
Government efforts will be supported by technological solutions
that start to appear on the market.
- supervising the proper functioning of established experts
groups and mechanism, as in the case of commercial communications.
As the Commission is to keep the European Parliament informed
about the implementation of the system the Parliament should use
the opportunity to monitor how satisfactory it is in practice.
- promoting the availability of strong encryption, thus favouring
a competitive industry and ensuring that the EU data protection
policy is credible to the European net users. If the EU is to
promote information privacy it will have to support the availability
of strong encryption to protect that information. It is unacceptable
that Europe's competitive industry is chained because of law
enforcement considerations, or that EU data protection policy
becomes incredible to the European net users.
- encouraging the Commission to push for data protection standards
achieved in the Community to be applied on an international level.
With its data protection directive the Community has set a standard
and a common basis to speak with one voice in international negotiations.
A WTO initiative, aiming at a multilateral agreement on trade-related
aspects of global information flows whilst protecting the right
of privacy and personal data, should have at least the same protection
level for personal data as the EU.
- demanding a concentration of competence and initiatives on
electronic commerce to a limited number of Commission services
in order to ensure coherence of all efforts as well as transparency
for the outside world.
- promoting awareness creation activities and the financing
of electronic commerce projects and related infrastructure by
the social and structural funds, in particular in the Southern
Member States, to avoid perpetuation of major regional imbalances
- promoting the development and funding of the public part of
the Internet, disseminating education, research, cultural and
governmental information to the general public. A special emphasis
should be put on effort in Spain, Greece and Portugal.
- promoting wide use in the EU of the social funds for the
purpose of familiarising citizens with the new technologies,
investing in scholastic programmes to teach young people and instituting
technical training programmes to reach the adult population.
- fostering European solutions and regulation as a good negotiation
basis for international fora, thereby avoiding contradictory positions
of Member States.
- giving a preference to multilateral as opposed to bilateral
- strengthening international organisations and frameworks dealing
with different aspects of electronic commerce, such as WIPO or
WTO, thereby ensuring that there is no interference or contradiction
of international agreements with existing EU regulation.
- urging the Commission to ensure that international or bilateral
agreement have at least the Community level of protection
- encouraging the Commission to support the implementation of
the international MoU approach and to stop the US from further
dominating the Internet governance system
- urging the Commission and Member States to avoid duplication
of efforts in different international fora and multiplication
of international conferences
- promoting not only a closer co-operation with the CEE and
the non-EU Mediterranean countries on electronic commerce issues,
but to financially support the development of self-sustainable
electronic commerce projects.