New digital leader sets out plan to make online Europe more trusted and secure

Mariya Gabriel’s appointment as the new Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society has been endorsed by the European Parliament. She is a Bulgarian national who had been a member of the European Parliament since 2009.

There are multiple functions that she will fulfil as the new Commissioner, including ensuring that the right conditions are created to support cultural and creative industries, and maximising their potential for the economy.

Elsewhere, she will contribute to projects steered and coordinated by Vice-President of the European Commission Andrus Ansip, who oversees the Digital Single Market, and Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, in charge of Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness.

Some of her other functions will include developing and implementing measures to make Europe more trusted and secure online, ensuring that the EU can be a catalyst for public and private investment. The focus will be on delivering a high-quality, digital network infrastructure, supporting the development of creative industries a successful European media and content industry, as well as contributing to activities that turn digital research into successful European innovation stories.

As part of her brief, she will contribute to delivering a Digital Single Market (DSM) for the EU. The aim of the DSM is to help lay the groundwork for Europe’s digital future, with EU-wide telecommunications networks, digital services that cross borders and a wave of innovative European start-ups.


Strategy implementation

On May 10 this year, the Commission published the mid-term review of the Digital Single Market Strategy. It outlined the progress that has been made in implementing the Strategy since 2015, and where further actions are needed.

Three main areas were outlined where the EU and the new Commissioner need to act further to ensure a fair, open and secure digital environment:

  • The development of the European Data Economy to its full potential
  • The protection of Europe’s assets by tackling cybersecurity challenges
  • The assurance that online platforms can continue to bring benefit to the economy and society


In addition, the review explores several important policy areas critical for “unlocking the true value of the data economy.”


These areas include:

  • Digital skills
  • Digitising industry and services (e.g. connected cars, FinTech)
  • High Performance Computing
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Modernising public services
  • Health and care

The mid-term review also mapped out the way ahead in the three key areas.

On the data economy, the Commission is preparing a legislative initiative on the cross-border free flow of non-personal data (Autumn 2017), and an initiative on accessibility and reuse of public and publicly funded data (Spring 2018). The Commission will also continue its work on liability and other emerging data issues.

In cybersecurity, by September 2017 the Commission will review the EU Cybersecurity Strategy and the mandate of the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA), to align it with the new EU-wide framework on cybersecurity. The Commission will also work to propose additional measures on cyber security standards, certification and labelling, to make connected objects more secure online.


Online platforms

For online platforms, by the end of 2017 the Commission will prepare an initiative to address unfair contractual clauses and trading practices that have been identified in platform-to-business relationships. It has also taken recent competition enforcement decisions related to this.

The Commission has additionally developed several dialogues with online platforms within the DSM, which it intends to coordinate better (e.g. EU Internet Forum, Code of Conduct on illegal online hate speech, and Memorandum of Understanding on the Sale of Counterfeit Goods over the Internet) One of the specific aims is to move forward with the procedural aspects and principles on removal of illegal content which are based on transparency and protecting fundamental rights.

The Commission also addressed the need for further investment in digital infrastructure and technologies in areas where investment needs to go far beyond the capacity of single Member States, such as high-performance computing.

The new Commissioner will have found herself busy from the start, but she appears to be motivated for the role, as evidenced in a speech that she gave in Tallinn where she addressed the Digital Single Market Conference on the Free Movement of Data, stating that she is looking forward on working to “realise a free flow of data in the European Union and to further develop the European Data Economy.”