EU lawmakers held their first political discussion on the proposed digital markets law, a key part of EU digital law, on Tuesday January 11 with a view to reaching a deal by the end March.
The first trilogue session between the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council on the Digital Markets Act (DMA) focused mainly on presentations, with all parties involved stating their priorities ahead of the negotiations.
Andreas Schwab, the center-right MEP who is the European Parliament’s chief negotiator, told EURACTIV that the meeting was “very good and constructive”.
“Everything went very well,” echoed Cédric O, French Secretary of State representing the Council of the EU.
The European Commission sent a large delegation which included Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager and Commissioner Thierry Breton, who head the Commission for Competition (DG COMP) and Technology (DG CNECT) respectively.
The current French Presidency of the Council of the EU has made reaching an agreement on DMA one of its priorities. As France heads towards the April presidential elections, President Emmanuel Macron’s team wants to make political capital by negotiating an agreement on European law that limits the power of Big Techs.
According to an internal European Parliament document, consulted by EURACTIV, the French diplomats’ draft timetable is to conclude the agreement with two other political trilogues which will take place on February 10 or 15 and March 29. If the talks do not progress as quickly as expected, two more trilogues are scheduled for April 5 or 6 and May 3 or 4.
However, the bulk of the work should be done at the technical level. Two technical meetings are scheduled every week, every Tuesday afternoon and every Friday morning. The first technical meeting is scheduled for Friday (January 14).
“It was about defining what we need to discuss but not the details,” said MEP Evelyne Gebhardt, who represents the center-left S&D group in the negotiations. “We want to finish as soon as possible but also as well as possible,” she added.
The internal document also describes what Parliament considers to be the main differences with the Council’s position.
Topping the list is the scope and definition of ‘gatekeeper’, as MEPs raised the quantitative threshold and included web browsers, virtual assistants and connected TVs in the list of basic services. On the other hand, the Member States have not significantly modified this part of the text.
The two legislators propose to include an annex with a methodology which details the definition of end user and professional user for each type of basic service.
The Council made some minor clarifications to the custodian’s obligations and only one addition on the right to subscribe.
On the other hand, EU lawmakers have added interoperability obligations, restrictions on micro-targeting, an extension of equitable access conditions to all basic services, an expanded scope of auto-preference to include default settings and increased access to information for advertisers and publishers.
Parliament’s text also includes stricter measures in the event of systematic non-compliance, such as the temporary blocking of “murderous acquisitions” and stricter obligations to inform the Commission of planned takeovers. MEPs raised the fines the Commission could impose from a minimum of 4% to a maximum of 20% of a company’s annual turnover.
In addition, lawmakers provide a complaints mechanism that empowers anyone with a legitimate interest in filing a complaint, and they also want to extend the protections provided by the Whistleblower Directive to anyone who reports regulatory violations.
Regarding enforcement, MEPs propose to create a ‘high-level European group of digital regulators and other mechanisms to support cooperation between the European Commission and national authorities. EU countries have also sought to clarify this cooperation without setting up a separate structure.
Finally, Parliament’s mandate aims to shorten the deadline for applying the DMA from six months after entry into force as initially proposed to two months.
[Edited by Benjamin Fox]