1. What should be the role of an efficiently designed legislative package on digital services (DSA)?

The Digital Services Act (DSA) legislative package announced by the European Commission is designed to modernise the e-commerce directive, which is now 20 years old, and the responsibilities of digital services. It is also designed to ensure a level playing field and competitive opportunities for innovators, businesses and new entrants in markets that are characterised by large online platforms.

Establishing a modern regulatory framework for digital services should serve to deepen the internal market for digital services and establish clearer and harmonised rules and responsibilities. This will promote the internal market, strengthen innovation, growth and competitiveness, and increase consumer confidence in digital services.

Certain types of behaviour by major online platforms (or “gatekeepers”) should be banned. This would ensure that the business environment is fair and would enable online platform ecosystems in the EU to increase their potential and capacity for innovation.

The German Council Presidency wants to discuss this issue among the Member States in the run-up to a proposal that will be made by the European Commission which is expected in December.

2. How can we better support digital innovators, growth companies, SMEs and new entrants to European online platform markets in the future?

It is important that we work to make the online business environment fair and to increase the potential and capacity for innovation within the digital economy in the internal market.

The scope of our current competition law instruments is limited, which means that large online platforms (or “gatekeepers”) and those with significant intermediary power cannot always be fully obligated or obligated quickly enough to behave in a way that is in line with competition law – in a way that ensures fair competition opportunities for all market participants.

The ex-ante regulatory measures announced by the European Commission under the Digital Services Act should therefore be introduced for large online platforms acting as gatekeepers.

Using the instrument of ex-ante regulation ensures that we maintain fairness and opportunities for competition for innovators, companies and new entrants in the markets concerned and that there is no anti-competitive or discriminatory behavior.

3. What is the current status of the ‘GAIA-X’ project?

The Federal Government is using the GAIA-X project to promote the establishment of a European data infrastructure that is open, sovereign and networked. The data infrastructure is to offer users added value by boosting data sovereignty, data security and data protection, and thus contribute to the development of digital ecosystems that are in line with European standards and values. We want European businesses, organisations and citizens to be able to store and share their data in a secure, trustworthy and interoperable way. The GAIA-X project slots into relevant initiatives by the European Commission, particularly the European Data Strategy and the Industrial Strategy for Europe.

Although GAIA-X was initially a German project, it was later jointly promoted by Germany and France in particular, and has now become a European project. The first joint project results were presented on 4 June 2020. Then, on 15 September 2020, eleven German and eleven French companies and organisations each signed documents founding a non-profit association which is headquartered in Brussels and which will transform the project into permanent structures. The association is open to companies and organisations that share and commit themselves to the values and objectives of GAIA-X, and membership interest is already very high.

Parallel to this, users are also organising themselves into GAIA-X hubs, which are increasingly emerging around Europe. The aim of these hubs is to set up industry-specific data rooms, to define requirements for technical infrastructure solutions, and to bring GAIA-X solutions into widespread use. This creates an innovative digital ecosystem in which new digital business models can grow.

To support these goals, the German Council Presidency is promoting data sovereignty and data availability, especially within the framework of GAIA-X.