European single market commissioner Mario Monti has welcomed a new agreement of EU ministers, which aims to ensure a single market for information services.
The EU's internal market ministers agreed on a directive that would require member states to draft national rules on free movement of information society services and notify the EC of any potential barrier to trade in online services. These drafts would then be subject to a three-month standstill so the Commission, member states and the industry can make comments and amendments.
"The proposed directive would help to ensure a true frontier-free single market for information society services, without which many services would not be viable," Monti said.
"At the same time it would allow member states to legislate at the national level in accordance with their own traditions and priorities, without the imposition of harmonised rules at the EU," he added. "Indeed, the notification procedure would encourage an exchange of ideas between member states, reduce the risk of countries adopting diverging measures and so help to avoid inconsistencies which could otherwise undermine the effectiveness of national measures."
The directive extends existing rules, requiring states to notify the EC about potential barriers to trade in traditional goods and services. But it will not cover either telecommunications or broadcasting services, which are already covered by other EU regulations, the Commission said.
Information society services are defined as services provided by electronic means and would cover online professional services, interactive entertainment, online information, virtual shopping malls, and distance learning services. This definition will not cover braodcast services such as video on demand, radio, teletext, non-electronic mail order catalogues, automatic bank teller machines, and electronic games in amusement arcades.
Information services in sectors already harmonised by EU legislation would not have to notified while products in regulated markets, such as financial services, would not be subject to the standstill, the EC added.
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