Four key issues in EU’s 2010-2015 Digital Agenda

December 28, 2010  |  Electronic Invoicing

The Digital Agenda aims to deliver benefits to consumers and businesses, based on ultra-fast Internet connections and interoperable applications. To underline the importance of information and communication technologies (ICT) in boosting EU competitiveness, Neelie Kroes was appointed as a special commissioner dedicated to the ‘Digital Agenda’ in February 2010.

Key policies

Some key policies areas in the ambitious five-year plan (2010-2015) are:

  • A new single market to remove all barriers to cross-border trade and licensing, (..), complete the Single European Payment Area.
  • Improve ICT standard-setting and interoperability by reviewing the European Interoperability Framework.
  • Trust and security to tackle cybercrime, sexual exploitation and review of the data protection framework to protect consumer rights.
  • Increase access to fast Internet and aid the roll-out of fixed and wireless networks.
  • Boosting research and innovation by upping the ICT R&D budget by 20% annually.

Key issues
Some key issues according to the European Commission, that affect electronic invoicing and payments:

1.       Electronic Invoicing (e-invoicing)

“In a drive to save billions of euros per year for European businesses struggling with the economic crisis, the European Commission wants to make electronic invoices – e-invoicing – the norm across the EU by 2020. If paper invoices were to be replaced with electronic ones, Brussels estimates a €40 billion saving per year across the bloc.

Different e-invoicing rules from one member state to another, such as advanced electronic signatures that go beyond common standards, create legal obstacles. This represents a serious disincentive to operate across borders, especially for small companies.”

2.    Easier international payments

“In addition to e-invoicing, a cross-border direct-debit scheme is one of the cornerstones of the Single European Payment Area (SEPA) which should allow payments to be made with the same co-ordinates across the bloc.

The new system is based on the use of international bank account numbers (IBANs) and bank identifier codes (BICs).

The take up of SEPA has been sluggish as businesses still await the end date of their legacy schemes which has not yet been set by the European Commission.

That is why the Commission has announced a regulation setting binding deadlines for the total extinction of national systems, with a one year window for the adoption of SEPA credit transfers and two years for direct-debit payments.”

3.    Interoperability and standards

“The European Commission plans to rewrite ICT industry rules to make sure dominant technologies, like devices with always-on connectivity, do not lock consumers into supporting monopolies and hamper innovation.

The Commission initiatives in the area stem from the 2009 White Paper “Modernising ICT Standardisation in the EU – The Way Forward.” The European Parliament has also published a non-legislative report on the future of European standardisation.”

4.    Trust and security

“Consumer confidence is crucial for boosting the take-up of ICT in Europe. Fighting against cyber-attacks and data retention issues are also key issues for the EU and national policymakers.

The European Commission is planning a review of the Data Retention Directive, which could include legislative harmonisation and a reduction of the periods when public authorities can access citizens’ private electronic data for security reasons.”

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