It is crucial for the CoR to continue highlighting the role and concerns of LRAs with regards to the Digital Services package, as well as to further strengthen its inter-institutional presence in the ensuing debate.
The opinion emphasises the strong local and regional dimension of the DSA and DMA proposals. Digital services influence citizens' everyday life and some of the sectors in which certain platforms are active, such as housing and tourist accommodation, urban transport and delivery of public services, are regulated at local and regional level; need to push for a regulatory approach which enables innovation, competitiveness and fair competition.
At its Plenary Session of 30 June/1 July 2021, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) adopted an opinion on The Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act. Rodi Kratsa (EL/EPP), Governor of the Ionian islands, was rapporteur for this opinion.
This opinion is embedded into a broader net of initiatives aimed at sharpening the CoR's profile as one of the EU's drivers of an inclusive digital transformation. Building on previous CoR opinions on the platform economy, it especially highlights the concerns of local and regional authorities related to digital services which influence citizens' everyday life in some of the sectors where platforms are active, such as housing and tourist accommodation, urban transport and delivery of public services. In addition, the opinion expresses the need to overcome the 'double digital divide', caused by the unequal distribution of the prerequisites needed to reap the potential social and economic benefits from digitalisation: access to high-capacity networks and digital literacy. To counteract territorial and social disparities and to ensure digital cohesion, the opinion thus calls for capacity-building at the local level.
Based on the exploitation of existing networks with relevant stakeholders, including MEP Andreas Schwab, rapporteur on the Digital Markets Act in the European Parliament, the opinion on the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act has had a strong impact on interinstitutional debates on these legislative acts and the concerns of local and regional authorities were included in the final legislative texts. Around 30 points of Rapporteur Kratsa's opinion were taken up in the reports by the European Parliament. 11 of these points were included in the final texts (both DSA and DMA taken together) following agreement among the co-legislators. These points cover the explicit mention of online platforms for accommodation services and of the potential risk of unfair business practices by web browsers and virtual assistants.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
- notes the strong local and regional dimension of the DSA and DMA proposals. Digital services influence citizens' everyday life and some of the sectors in which certain platforms are active, such as housing and tourist accommodation, urban transport and delivery of public services, are regulated at local and regional level; emphasises here the need for a regulatory approach which enables innovation, Europe's competitiveness and fair competition;
- notes that many smaller players depend on established online platform ecosystems for business transactions and that the COVID-19 pandemic has further increased the dependency of smaller businesses reliant on established online platform ecosystems to reach out to business users and consumers; highlights the importance of the proposed regulations for the local economy, as SMEs and start-ups will benefit from harmonised rules. The regulations form a framework within which SMEs can scale up within the Single Market;
- acknowledges the importance of data sharing for effective enforcement at national and subnational level and points out that access to data is a crucial issue for public authorities, particularly at local and regional level; it is impossible to enforce applicable rules and safeguard control mechanisms without access to the relevant data from platforms operating in a given territory; recalls the CoR's recent position which held that inconsistent approaches lead to further fragmentation and should be avoided;
- takes the view that a "double digital divide" due to a lack of infrastructure and IT literacy and skills must be prevented. Where the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated disparities, there is an urgent need to support capacity-building for citizens and businesses, particularly traditional SMEs, start-ups and the public sector.