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European Digital Policy Outlook for 2022

26 Jan, 2022

Key Points:

  • The EU’s digital agenda for 2022 will be very busy. With the European Commission’s mandate expiring in Spring 2024, 2022 is the last year for Ursula von der Leyen and her team of Commissioners to present proposals that could complete the legislative process within her mandate.   
  • New legislative proposals such as European Data Act, initiatives on cybersecurity resilience and semiconductors will take centre stage.
  • The Commission will continue its delicate balancing act between a push for European strategic autonomy and creating a standard-setting Digital Single Market open to trading with the wider-world. 
  • Legislators will seek to finalise negotiations on major proposals as they approach the finishing line. These include the EU’s flagship proposals on platform regulation like the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and the Digital Services Act (DSA). 
  • MEPs will seek to make progress on new files including the Platform Workers Directive, while accelerating negotiations on the Artificial Intelligence Act, where the Parliament has fallen behind the Council.  
  • France has made the EU’s digital agenda a top priority upon taking over the rotating Presidency of the Council in January, with a focus on enhancing European digital sovereignty and competitiveness.  
  • 2022 will also be a year to review past flagship policies, including an assessment of the effectiveness of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD), as well as enforcement of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). 

New initiatives in 2022
The European Commission 2022 Work Programme contains a handful of new digital policies.

The European Chips Act, expected early this year, focusing on capacity building, research and international partnerships and could include similar provisions to the American Chips Act an equivalent initiative. With this legislation the EU will have to reconcile its push for strategic autonomy with the need for foreign companies’ participation in investment intensive projects.

The European data strategy is starting to bear fruit, with the publication of the EU Data Act expected in February 2022, introducing general conditions for how consumers and businesses access the data they generate when using a product or a service. The legislative proposal is expected to touch upon key issues such as data-sharing obligations, data monetisation and cloud switching. It could also reopen debates on the transfer of data with third countries.

The EU is raising its ambitions on defence and security policy, with an increased focus on cybersecurity. The European Cyber Resilience Act is expected in Q3 2022, setting minimum cybersecurity standards for connected devices. This legislation could set several rules to minimise software vulnerabilities and impose frequent security updates on manufacturers, as well as ensure the deletion of personal and other data at the end of the devices’ lifetime.

The European Media Freedom Act, expected in June 2022, establishing a common framework for the media sector with the aim of promoting greater pluralism in the market and safeguarding the independence of public service media. This could raise key issues connected to the transparency of online advertising expenditure and to media consumption.

Finally, the second half of this year will also see initiatives in neighbouring sectors that will impact companies in the digital and technological sectors. As part of the EU Green Deal and the Circular Economy Action Plan, the Commission is expected to publish a proposal on multimodal digital mobility services to make sustainable modes of transport more attractive for EU citizens, as well as an initiative on the right to repair, which could set rules on access to spare parts, systematic repairs, and fair pricing.

Ongoing files to be prioritised
The Commission 2022 Work Programme identifies several pending policy proposals expected to be finalised and adopted before the end of the year.

Some of these initiatives are currently being negotiated and some are expected to start inter-institutional “trilogue” negotiations in the first quarter of 2022. These include flagship initiatives such as the Digital Markets Act (DMA), improving the fairness and contestability of the EU’s digital economy; the Digital Services Act (DSA), redefining the rules for offering content, services and products online in the EU; the Digital Operational Resilience Act for the financial sector (DORA), establishing a series of safeguards to mitigate risks of cyber-attacks in the financial system; and the Directive on measures for a high common level of cybersecurity across the Union (NIS 2 Directive), increasing cooperation between member states on cybersecurity measures.

Other key dossiers will continue to be discussed separately by the European Parliament and the Council. This includes the Regulation on Artificial Intelligence setting out horizontal rules for the development, commodification and use of AI-driven products, services and systems; a Regulation on political advertising, introducing pan-EU rules on party political financing for online ads and address issues connected to political micro-targeting, as well as the Regulation on Markets in Crypto-assets (MiCA) harmonising the regulation of cryptocurrencies, assets and services.

What else?
This year will not be characterised by intense work at the national level on the transposition of EU Directives, as major European digital initiatives such as the European Copyright Directive have been already transposed. However, national governments will be transposing the European Accessibility Act, setting EU-wide minimum accessibility requirements for products and services.

Nevertheless, this year we will see the first assessment of the implementation of Directives that are at the cornerstone of EU digital policy. These include the Audiovisual Media Services Directive and an assessment by the European Data Protection Board of the enforcement of the General Data Protection Regulation.

Cooperation with third countries also remains a key priority for 2022. The US-EU Trade and Technology Council is expected to meet again before summer, the UK is reviewing its data flows framework in light of Brexit, and the Commission will be discussing whether to review its data adequacy agreement with the UK. Commission officials have already hinted they would be ready to suspend the current agreement in case of significant divergence with the EU legislation and this could have serious ramifications on cross-border data flows.


Implication for businesses
During this busy year, policymakers will be pressed for time as they balance the challenge of regulating complex areas with the need to act rapidly before the end of the mandate and impending pan-EU elections in 2024.

Due to this short timeframe, opportunities for business to engage will be even briefer than usual. Clear, evidence-based arguments, gauged with the right political understanding, could help shape digital policy in the EU for the next decade.   

Authors

Adriana Capparelli is Director at Flint. She wrote this piece with input from Flint Manager Thomas Grandjouan. To find out more about how Flint can help you navigate the risks and opportunities of these developments get in touch.  

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