The Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU: last mile to wrap up the work of the current legislature

On January the 1st, Romania took over the six month rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU). This happens at a defining moment for the EU since the mandate of both the European Parliament is coming to an end in May and the European Commission in October.

On January the 1st, Romania took over the six month rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU).

For the last 6 months, Austria spearheaded the work of the Council and tried to foster EU’s competitiveness through digitalisation. With 53 political deals reached with the European Parliament, and the major progress made on many other files, the Austrians have been praised for their efficient and serious approach to the work. When looking at digital files, the Austrian Presidency finalised the work on the Cybersecurity Act and on the Directive regarding online retransmissions of television and radio programmes. But this work is far from complete and the EU co-legislators are now short of time notably to achieve the Digital Single Market Strategy.

As always, the handover of the Presidency to another Member States goes with a motto change. With regards to Romania, the chosen motto is ‘Cohesion, a common European value’, highlighting the need for European unity. As a matter of fact, of the 30 legislative proposals from the European Commission intended to be finalised by the end of 2018, 7 are still on the table.  As a result, the European Commission is calling for advancing as many files as possible before the end of the mandate in May. In reality, this is a very short time window since closing a file before the last European Parliament Plenary session in April means finalising it by mid-February. Orange is concerned by several files on the Romanian Presidency agenda.

The approach and priorities of the Romanian Presidency

Fully aware of the challenges that lay ahead, the Romanian Presidency has based its work programme around 4 pillars:

  1. Converging Europe: growth, cohesion, competitiveness, connectivity
  2. A safer Europe
  3. Europe, a stronger global actor
  4. Europe of Common Values

Most of these pillars can eventually be linked to the digital economy and society strategy of the EU, with the idea of promoting digitalisation across Europe under pillar 1, enhancing cybersecurity under pillar 2 or ensuring that Europe is not a mere adopter of digital services from abroad under pillar 3.

Considering the short timing, the Romanian Presidency decided to take a realistic and pragmatic approach, i.e. to focus its work on the most advanced files.

There are 3 draft legislations which entered the final EU law-making phase (the ‘trilogues’), hence very likely to be adopted under the Romanian presidency: the Directive on the re-use of public sector information (PSI), providing better access to public sector data; the platform-to-business Regulation, ensuring that online intermediation platforms are more transparent, and the Copyright Directive, introducing new mechanisms allowing content right holders to receive a fair revenue from online copyright users.

Orange is closely monitoring the development of the following legislations which are less advanced but where the Romanian Presidency will play a key role in moving them forward:

  • the ePrivacy Regulation – notably applying the principle of confidentiality to all electronic communication service providers. This is a sensitive file for us since our capacity to innovate through big data and artificial intelligence is at stake depending on the rules attached to the handling of metadata,
  • the Regulation preventing the online dissemination of terrorist content,
  • the Regulation establishing the EU Cybersecurity competence center.

Finally, the Romanian presidency has also mentioned its willingness to continue working on the EC proposal regarding taxation of some digital services. Ensuring fair taxation across the EU is an objective we fully share.

Many call it ‘a very challenging time’ for Romania which joined the EU in 2007 and is now holding the Presidency of the Council of the EU for the first time ever. In particular, Romania will be at the heart of the EU budget negotiations along with the handling of the Brexit outcomes. Another defining moment for the Romanian Presidency will be the Sibiu Summit on May the 9th, that will gather all the Head of States and Governments of the UE and  where the future of the European project will be defined.

Orange is looking forward to working with the Romanian Presidency on the pending legislative files and thereby ensuring Europe is well-equipped to be competitive in the digital era.