Finland needs to punch above its weight in the digital field

Recently, there has been much debate about Finland increasing its influence in the EU. All EU countries have plenty to do as they strive to build a better digital future for Europe.

Finland is the undisputed leader in digital development in the EU. For several years running, Finland has been ranked top of the European Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), which measures the digital capabilities of EU countries and trends in this area. This is because we in Finland have made pragmatic policies promoting digital matters. Instead of weaving together a policy of subsidies, the most important aspect for the sector is to foster an operating environment that incentivises innovation and investment.

The state should also avoid imposing overly burdensome obligations that impede or prevent development. For example, the recent trend has been to increase the burden of disclosure obligations and blocking orders on telecommunications companies. Digital development is propelled by competitive markets and not, for example, by in-house service provision within municipalities or wellbeing services counties. An essential factor in Finland’s success is the principle of society setting a framework and facilitating action and businesses making it a reality.

In the digital realm, Finland has the opportunity to be much more influential than its size would suggest. Finland must work with like-minded countries to achieve this. Unfortunately, Germany and France – the Union’s largest member states – do not represent an innovative digital mindset. Conversely, the D9+ is a group of EU countries aiming to promote the adoption of digitalisation and distribution of best practices. The group comprises the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal, Poland, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Czechia and Estonia. Activating and enhancing cooperation among this group would be in the interests of Finland and the EU as a whole.

EU influence – a challenge shared by all

FiCom advocates on several legislative projects in its field as part of the European Internet Service Providers Association (EuroISPA). It is pleasing to see that the national associations tasked with promoting the digital sector can easily find common ground despite their different backgrounds. Topical issues include resolving the problems of data protection legislation, addressing the efficient transatlantic movement of data, preventing overlaps in cyber legislation, the importance of global standards and, above all, preventing the geopolitical segmentation of the internet.

An estimated 80% of telecommunications legislation originates in the European Union. In particular, several new legislative packages have been made in the data economy and cyber security fields. Hopefully, the Commission will lower the pace of new legislation in its next executive term and ensure the national progress of the projects now in train and the construction of a genuine common internal market.

Significance of the legislative packages for the sector difficult to evaluate

In the main, the updates and necessary corrections to existing directives and regulations are understandable. Conversely, many of the new proposals are so vague as to render their impact on the sector as a whole – let alone for individual companies – impossible to assess in advance. Evaluating the impact of legislation is the most complicated aspect of ex-ante advocacy, in many cases impeding it entirely.

The European Commission’s consultations often pose difficult questions from the standpoint of competition law. The Commission tends to ask questions about highly complex business issues that naturally go unanswered. It would not be wrong if the European Commission focused more on project preparation and transparency. Having more contact details than just a landline phone number would be very helpful.

Electronic Communications Directive of questionable relevance to today’s sector

In the spring, FiCom and its member companies proposed opening up the Electronic Communications Directive, the key legislative package for the telecommunications sector. The European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) should be critically reviewed, and the Commission should contemplate whether the legislation is still necessary today.

The general challenge with EU regulation is that more and more of it is constantly drafted, but there is no understanding of how to let go of old legislation. Keynote addresses often refer to the “one in, one out” principle: whenever new regulations are drafted, the Commission should also consider what could be removed from old legislation. It’s time to put that into action!

Elina Ussa, Managing Director, FiCom